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Dedicated to the memory of three great men,
whose intuitive vision and integrity equalled
their knowledge and unerring devotion to art.
Their recent deaths impoverished France
and all those, to whom the upkeep of
aesthetic culture is of essential necessity.
TO THE INSPIRED ROBERT DELAUNAY
TO THE IDEALISTIC IVANHOE RAMBOSSON
TO THE NOBLE FELIX FENEON
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2011 with funding from
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Library and Archives
PUBLISHED BY THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM FOUNDATION NEW YORK
EDITED BY HILLA REBAY, CURATOR AND TRUSTEE, UPON THE OCCASION OF
THE KANDINSKY MEMORIAL EXHIBITION, MARCH 15TH TO MAY 15TH, 1945
IN THE MUSEUM OF NON-OBJECTIVE PAINTINGS, 24 EAST 54TH STREET, NEW YORK CITY
COPYRIGHT 1945 BY THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM FOUNDATION NEW YORK
SET IN FUTURA BY ATLANTIC TYPOGRAPHERS, INC. • NEW YORK CITY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WATERCOLOR, SKETCH BY KANDINSKY FOR COMPOSITION NO. 4
IN MARCH 1911 KANDINSKY EXPLAINED ONE
OF HIS EARLY OBJECTIVE ABSTRACTIONS
COMPOSITION NO. 4 AS FOLLOWS:
1. Retrospective Definition.
Masses (of the weight)
Colour below in the middle -blue (contributes to the whole a cold sound).
upper right hand corner — split blue, red and yellow.
Lines left hand upper corner— black lines of horses (knotted).
lower right hand corner— stretched lines of the lying.
of the masses to the lines, of the definite to the vague, of knotted lines to colored knots.
And as the main contrast an angled sharp movement (battle) to the light cold sweet colors.
of the color to the contours. The completed contour of the castle is reduced only through
the influence of the sky over the contour.
4. 2 CENTERS
1. of the knotted lines.
2. of the modelled angle of the blue which are separated through vertical black lines.
(spears). The whole composition is intended to be light with many sweet colors, which
often absorb each other; the yellow is also cold.
This light — sweet — cold, presents the main contrast in the picture by moving to an
angle (conflict). It seems that here this contrast (as compared with composition No. 2)
is still stronger and therefore appears harder, more distinct.
It possesses as an advantage, a more precise influence, and as a disadvantage a slightly
As a basis are placed the following elements:
1. The consonants of inactive masses.
2. a quick movement of the parts directed mainly to the upper right hand corner.
3. the main movement in an angle is pointed toward the upper left hand corner.
4. the opposition of both directions (in the direction towards the right we notice the
flowing of smaller forms, the others flow to the left).
5. the consonants of the masses with the lines which lie open.
6. The contrasting of the smudged forms to the contours (also the line in the sense of
the line (apropos to No. 5) and as a contour where it is supposed to sound as a line.
7. The overflowing of the colors over the limits of the form.
8. The preponderance of the sound of the colors over the sound of the form.
COMPOSITION NO. 4
COMPOSITION NO. 6
HOW KANDINSKY EXPLAINED COMPOSITION
NO. 6, ONE OF HIS LAST OBJECTIVE
ABSTRACTIONS IN EARLY MAY OF 1913
This picture I was bearing in mind for one and Va years.
And often it seemed to me that perhaps I would not
achieve it. The point of departure was the deluge. This
point of departure was a mirrored picture which I have
made rather more for my own pleasure.
Here different objective forms are given, which are
sometimes merry (it amused me to compose earnest
forms with amusing expressions), nudes, arches, ani-
mals, palms, flashes, rain, etc.
As the mirrored picture was ready, I found myself wish-
ing to work this theme over into a composition, and it
was rather clear to me in which way I would have to
But very soon this feeling disappeared, and I found
myself lost in objective forms which I painted so as to
make the comprehension of this picture more clear and
distinct. Instead of clearness, however, I found indis-
In several sketches I dissolved the objective forms and
in others I tried to achieve the impression in a more
abstract way. But this did not work either.
The reason for it was, that myself while being forced
to render the expression of the deluge, I did not listen
to the expression of the word "deluge."
Not the inner sound, but the exterior expression was
dominating me. Weeks passed and I tried again, but
still without results.
I also tried the already tested way of giving up for a
time the task, so as to be able to take a sudden look
at the sketches with fresh eyes. Then it was that I dis-
covered the correct approach but I was still unable to
separate the kernel from the shell: I remembered the
serpent which could not get out of its old skin. The skin
was very much dead, but it stuck to the serpent, which
in this case was the object.
In the same way for a year and a half there would
stick to me the element of the catastrophe of the deluge,
which is alien to the inner sense of the picture.
My mirrored picture was at that time on exhibition.
But it returned and as I saw it again, I was immediately
again where I was, when I had first completed that
mirrored picture. But I already had my doubts and
thought that I would never complete the big picture.
Nevertheless from time to time I would give a look at
the mirror picture which hung in my studio. And every
time I would react the same way, firstly by the colors
and then by the compositional work and then by the
form of design in itself which all was without any re-
lation to the object.
This mirrored picture appeared so separated from my-
self, that I was astonished I had painted it. However,
it made its impression on me, like many other things or
ideas; which have the power through their vibrations
to awaken in me purely artistic conceptions and which
brought me finally to the creation of a picture.
At last the day came when a quiet inner feeling made
me entirely sure of myself. I immediately produced
nearly without any corrections a definite last sketch,
which nearly practically seemed to satisfy me; and I
felt sure that under normal circumstances I would paint
this painting. As soon as I got the canvas I immediately
proceeded to the drawing. It went so fast that nearly
everything was satisfactory.
In two or three days the picture as a whole was there.
The struggle to master the canvas was over, therefore
if for some reason I would have to give up to paint,
the picture would still be there: the main work was done.
Then came the extremely delicate pleasant and never-
theless strenuous process of harmonizing the different
parts of the picture with each other. Formerly I would
have been much bothered where I found something
objectively wrong and would have felt obliged to
improve it. Yet the experience of years had taught
me, that sometimes the error \n a painting does not lie
in the space where we look for it. And that one makes a
right correction of the left hand lower corner only by
correcting something out of balance in the upper right
hand corner. If the left hand cup of the scales goes
down too low, the point is to put more weight on the
right hand cup and then the left one will soon rise its
weight all by itself.
The strenuous search in the picture of such right hand
cup, the trembling of the left one which occurs through
the smallest change in design and color in some place,
which cause vibrations to the whole of a painting. All
these infinitely alive, immensely sensitive elements in a
picture, if when correctly painted, evolve a third mo-
mentum of beauty and suflFering in the process of
Such infinitely small possibilities of weight which should
be used and which exercise such a strong influence on
the whole conception of the picture's marvelous exacti-
tude is the action of the hidden law, which through for-
tunate circumstances influences the artist and which he
obediently follows — all this appears as tempting, as
the first dynamic sketching of the big masses on the
To each of these moments corresponds a certain tension.
And many a wrong or incompleted picture owes its sad
fate to the fact that wrong tensions were applied.
In this picture one sees two centers:
1. On the left the delicate, pinkish, slightly vague cen-
ter with feeble, uncertain lines in the middle.
2. On the right (slightly higher than the left one) the
rude, red-blue, a little out of key, with sharp, malignant
strong and very precise lines.
Between these two centers there is a third one (closely
to the left one) which only later on is discovered to be
a center, but on a final count will be considered as
the main center.
Here the pink and the white are mixed in a foam
which gives the impression of neither lying on the
canvas nor on any ideal plane. Rather it seems to
hang in the air and appears to be surrounded with
haze. Such an absence of a plane and an uncertainty
of distance may be observed for instance in Russian
steam baths. A human figure standing amid the steam
seems to be neither close nor far; it is "somewhere."
This "somewhere" of the main center produces the
decisive impression of the picture. I worked so much upon
this problem, until I attained what I was ceaselessly striv-
ing for from the first. And which I later incorporated into
the innerly desired form. The smaller form of this pic-
ture called for something very plain, yet broad
("largo") with respect to infiuence. For this purpose I
used long solemn lines, which I had already used in
It was good to see the new way in which the previ-
ously used measure could be put to work. Those lines
are connected with those above them, which are in a
cross direction to the former and are thick and decisive.
The two systems of lines are in conflict with each other.
To soften the dramatic vibration of the lines, that is in
order to retouch their dramatically intruding element
(to put, so to say, a muzzle on this element), I placed
on the picture a display of a whole fugue of pink spots.
They give the great disturbance a certain calm and
provide an objective outlook to the whole drama. This
solemn and calm character is underscored also by the
various blue spots which contribute to an inner warmth.
The warm influence of this essentially cold color in-
creases again the dramatic element in an art which
thus again becomes noble and non-objective.
The entirely deep brown forms (especially in the upper
left hand corner) contribute a dull and very far
sounding note, which reminds one of hopelessness.
Green and yellow bring life to the soul and provide
it with the missing activity. I have also made decisive
use here of the smoothness and the roughness of the
canvas. This gives the spectator new experiences, even
if he comes close to the canvas.
In this way all the elements, even those in contradic-
tion to each other, are brought into complete inner
balance, so neither of them wins preponderance.
The original theme for the creation of the picture
(originally the deluge) is dissolved into an innerly pure.
independent, almost non-objective essence. Nothing
would be further from the truth than to brand-mark this
picture as the representation of an event.
A significantly acting objective destruction is in such
a way also a complete song of praise, a singular
sound, which resounds like a hymn of new revival,
which does follow every ruination.
ANALYSIS BY KANDINSKY ON HIS PAINTING
CALLED "THE WHITE EDGE," WHICH IS .PARTLY
ABSTRACT AND ALREADY PARTLY NON-OBJECTIVE
I have made many sketches for this picture, as well as
designs. The first sketch was made very soon after my
return from Moscow in December 1912. It was the re-
sult, OS is usually the case, of hard experiences in
Moscow, or to be more exact of impressions made by
Moscow itself. The first sketch was short and crowded.
But already in the second one I used "dissolution" of
colors and form-events in the right hand lower corner.
In the left hand upper corner I left the motive of the
"troika"* which I had conceived some time ago, and
which I had used in several other paintings. This left
corner had to be particularly simple, by which I mean,
that the impression thereof had to be gained directly
from the form. In the corner itself are white, indented
lines which express a certain feeling, which I am unable
to put into words. It may be that it evokes a feeling of
certain obstacles, which the troika is unable to over-
come. Described in this way the compositions acquire
a repulsive, wooden expression. For instance the gre6n
color awakens often (or sometimes) in the soul an echo
of summer vibrations. Freshness and clearness may, in
such a case, contribute to the harmony of this im-
pression. But it might become unpleasant, if this echo
should become too clear and distinct, so that instead of
reminding us of the summer season it would make us
think of summer "pleasures" such, as for instance, how
nice it would be to take off one's coat in summer without
catching cold. Thus, as a consequence, we should adopt
clearness and simplicity in the left hand upper corner
and a smudged dissolution with small and dull dissolu-
tions in the right hand upper corner. Likewise, as I often
do, I have made use of two centers, although they are
less independent here as for instance in Composition 6,
where it would be possible to make two pictures out
The center on left: a combination of standing forms
which is related to the second center; the use of pure,
very much resounding colors; the red slightly dissolved,
the blue absorbed inwards (presenting a strong centro-
filial movement.) Thus the means appear very simple,
quite uncovered and clear.
The second center to the right: bent, thick forms (which
cost me much work.) It has outward and inward pointed
hooks (rather white) which give to its melancholic bend
on energetic note of "inner simmering."
All this is submerged into dull blue tones (compara-
tively or perhaps even in an exaggerated way) which
only occasionally succeed in producing a sound and
which united together may contribute, to give to the
upper form a somewhat egg-shaped surrounding. It is
like a little realm by itself, which is not pasted on to an
alien body, but which rather blooms on it like a flower.
This somewhat egg-shaped form I have presented in a
general way, so as to make it clear and yet so as not
to be too conspicuous or insistant. I have for instance
shown its limits clearly at the top, and hazily below.
When following these limits with the eye one may ex-
perience many inner fluctuations, like those of waves.
Both centers are separated from each other, yet they
have a connection with each other, through the medium
of many more or less distinct forms, which are partly
plain spots, of green. This massing of the green I
have often applied quite unconsciously yet, as I see
it now, with a certain plan. I did not want to add to
the strong movement of this picture any further disturb-
ance. Much rather did I have the intention to show its
unrest by emphasizing the quiet. However, an over-
dose of green and especially of Paris-blue was
noticeable there (the frigidity of a dull sound) which,
later on and not without considerable effort, I tried to
eliminate from the picture.
My inner state of mind imposed on me the necessity of
choosing between the simplicity of the left side and
the two centers, and to apply a technique which I should
perhaps call the technique of pressure. I pressed the
brush against the canvas, which resulted in producing
small sharp angles and lumps. This seemed to be quite
correct and expedient — it seems that a certain tech-
nical disturbance, between the three described spots,
In the lower left hand corner then arises a conflict in
white and black, which is separated from the dramatic
clearness of the upper left hand corner, by the use of
Naples-yellow. I call the rolling of the indistinct black
spots in the white an "inner brooding in an unclear
Similar to this is the opposed upper right hand corner,
which, however, already belongs to the white rim. The
work upon this white rim proceeded very slowly. All
sketches were of no use to me; although the separate
*A team of three horses. I designate by this name a system of three lines running along together with certain deviations, which are
bent towards the top. I came to this form by thinking of the lines on the backs of the horses in a Russian three-horse team.
forms finally became clear to me, I nevertheless could
not make up my mind to paint the picture. I was in
trouble. Week after week I contemplated the sketches
only to feel, that I was not ripe for the work. Years of
experience have taught me later, to use patience in such
cases, and not to try to break the task over my knee.
So it happened that only after nearly five months I
found myself again sitting in front of the second and
larger sketch and suddenly understood what was
missing: it was the white edge. I was even scared when
I understood the fact, but nevertheless went immediately
to the shop to order the canvas. The doubt about its
size took at least half an hour (length 160 ? 180 ?
200 ? ).
I tackled this white rim with the same capriciousness,
with which it had imposed itself on my mind. On the left,
below was the foundation; from here there rises up a
white wave which then falls abruptly down; on the
right of the picture the wave flows in a lazy snakelike
movement. On the top of the right side it forms a small
lake (in the spot, where the black brooding originates),
which disappears in the direction of the left hand
upper corner, so as to show itself for the first time in
the definite form of white hooks.
Due to the fact that this white rim proved to be the
solution of the whole picture, I have called by its
name the picture itself.
ON THE WHITE EDGE
The "White Edge," painted in 1913, belongs to Kandin-
sky's most important lyrical paintings; and to a period
which he later on called his "dramatic one," due to the
extraordinary fateful happenings in his life, during the
years from 1910 to 1920. In 1937, speaking about the
lyrical paintings of this period, Kandinsky explained,
that never again could he paint these paintings, nor
express himself equally spontaneously and as deeply
emotional. That therefore these lyrical paintings were
unique in their intensity and directness of self expression.
The "White Edge," though partially abstracted from a
"troika motive" and somewhat inspired by "intellectual
reminiscence about summer impressions," derives its
importance from those parts of non-objective inventive-
ness, which bring to its rhythmic form and color element
a powerful triumph, beyond all intellectual, unpictorial
handicap from abstraction.
The possibility of a complete solution in any creative
organization of painting, depends on the consequent
development of the artistic problem; intuitively con-
ceived, and ordered cosmically with an intelligence,
freed of any tie from the intellectual unpictorial dictum.
The purity of a given space on a canvas, or on a paper
demands from the artist the upholding of this purity.
And a strict devotion to the imperative lawful consequent
development, which is in acordance with the first state-
ment of form and color on the virgin canvas. That the
beauty of this given space can be ruined by inorganic
intellectual abstraction of an objective or subjective
inspiration, or intelligently and reverently enriched with
creative invention, makes the difFerence between the
intellectual earthly conceived abstraction and the intelli-
gent, spiritually conceived non-objective creation. A
simple fact, which has not yet dawned upon the many,
who are intellectually handicapped but write on Art. Yet
this realization has imposed its essential truth on the
creative artist's consciousness. It involves a severe obli-
gation for reverent devotion to the law of a sublime and
One of the reasons for the historic importance of the
"White Edge" is, that during the creation of this paint-
ing, Kandinsky evolved to the realization of this task
and its possibility. And so he overcame the objective
handicap, eliminating it with the powerful rhythm he
created in the construction of this painting, which is due
to its magnificent design and the masterful use of white
and black, as a color element. Also the contrast of the
rhythmic counterplay in the red motive, circling its own
melody around a green center motive, and the blue color
theme which is so soundly organized into its own lawful
rhythm, that it seems to hold the entire composifion
together. All this enchantingly embraced by a yellow
counter motive which, like a melody of infinite joyous-
ness, seems to satisfy itself with its expressive rhythm,
while surrounding organically the entire composition.
Almost like the tone of a clarinet, pursuing its flow of
delightful rhythmic harmony, which cheers the organiza-
tion of a symphony, to contrast the soft intensity of the
contrabass or cello's solemn andante. The law of counter- .
point in musical sound creation has its counterpart in
just as many lawful problems of form and color com-
position in non-objective painting. To which law the lay-
man need not pay any attention. His reaction should be
the faculty to enjoy the result of beauty and harmony,
as anyone can enjoy the heavenly blue of the enchanting
morning glory, swaying rhythmically in the wind, without
questioning its creation.
ON COMPOSITION NO. 8
Painted in 1923, ten years after the "White Edge," the
"Composition No. 8" which in 1932 Kandinsky called
his most important painting, shows clearly his develop-
ment to greater clarification of space and form precision.
Also, indicating the use of a light background, which
since 1919 has made possible to a great extent the
expression of the rhythmic form ideal of our time. In so
creating the need for a visionary or rather spiritual
dimension, which must be felt to be realized, and which
induces the onlooker to follow this visionary rhythm from
form to form, and to realize the dimension of a line to
harmonize with the balance of space surrounding it.
Also to feel the perfection of the rhythmic in-between,
which magically binds the entire creation to a unit of
endless vibrations for aesthetic enjoyment. It can be seen
from many angles, unlimited approaches and with
infinite possibilities of reaction. While the quiet influence
of non-objective paintings develops such reactions finally
in all those exposed to its growing influence. Due to this
influence, a non-objective painting is a most essential,
useful, practical creation for the advance of mankind.
In "Composition No. 8" the softly rounded lyrical line
motives are counter-played by the dramatic straight
lines and triangles, while the circle motives enfold them-
selves as contrasting centers in the vast unit. Here
Kandinsky already approaches what later he solved to
perfection in the paintings of 1935 "Pointed and Round"
and of 1936 "Rigid and Bent" (reproduced on pages
34 and 41). It is the excluding of the outside space,
beyond the frame, still so evident in the "White Edge."
Yet there the intense centrifugal force seems to rather
draw the outside into the inside of the painting's space
and to induce it deflnitely into its rhythmic content. In
"Composition No. 8" the master achieved already partly
a powerful feeling of largeness of space by almost
entirely staying inside the frame.
To avoid eccentric continuity and yet not create a boring
decoration or dull pattern, as most bring about, who
lack the ability to create the spirituality of rhythm, is
what provides the answer, whether such a painting is
Art or decoration. Only a concentric creation can bring
such spiritual rhythm in between its form variations.
Kandinsky's "Composition No. 8," painted in 1923,
belongs to the so-called "cold period," about which
Kandinsky wrote in 1936 to Hilla Rebay: "Most of the
paintings of this so-called 'cold period' which at first
were so violently attacked, are now already sold, and
so I have practically nothing left of it." In 1938 Kandinsky
stated that to call such a creative painting an "abstrac-
tion" was wrong, but that unfortunately this erroneous
term was now introduced. To this Hilla Rebay replied,
"It can be changed." As the word was the beginning of
creation, it should be respected for its meaning. How
can absolute forms become abstracted? Kandinsky also
said and wrote, that he had used the word "non-objec-
tive" already in 1910, in his first autobiography, and
that the denial in the word "non-objective" is needed at
a fime, when people are trained to detect objects as an
essential part of Art; they therefore wish to look for title
and subject, before even seeing a painfing as such. Yet
the denial in the word "NON" informs the onlooker at
once not to search for any earthly representation. This
intellectual reaction is clearly forestalled by the "NON,"
while only those people are attracted whose artistic souls
search for art itself. In time to come this "NON" will not
be necessary, and these paintings can be simply called
creative paintings which they are.
From 1914 to 1921 Kandinsky lived in Russia. Most of
the paintings from this epoch belong to the Russian
State and are not available at this time.
His autobiography written in 1910, and which follows,
appeared in a German edition by Herwarth Walden,
In 1918 while Kandinsky was in Moscow, the Depart-
ment of Pictorial Art of the Peoples Commissariat of
Education published a revised edition of it which also
contained an addition by Kandinsky; and which he
called "Text Artista."
This Autobiography as well as the Culture Plan of 1920
(Schematic Plan of Studies and Work of the Institute
of Art Culture) were both recently translated from the
Russian and are also published by the Solomon R.
Guggenheim Foundation, upon the occasion of the
Kandinsky Memorial Exhibition from March 15th to May
15th, 1945 in the Museum of Non-objective Paintings.
Located at 24 East 54th Street, it houses the collection
of the Foundation temporarily, until Frank Lloyd Wright
has erected the permanent Gallery on Fifth Avenue
and 89th Street after plans just finished, and which
is to be built soon after the war.
Photograph taken by Hilla Rebay of her parents,
showing the inn in Rothenburg, where Kandinsky
painted and which he describes in his biography.
RETROSPECTS BY WASSILY KANDINSKY
The first colors that made a strong impression on me
were light, juicy green, white, crimson red, black and
yellow ochre. These memories go back to the third year
of my life. I saw these colors on various objects which
are not as clear in my mind today as the colors
Like all children, I passionately loved to "ride horse-
back." For this purpose, our driver cut spiral stripes
into thin rods, removing both rinds from the first spiral
cut and only the top rind from the second, so that my
horse generally consisted of three colors; the brownish
yellow of the outer rind (which I did not like and which
I would have liked to replace by another), the juicy
green of the second layer of the rind (which I par-
ticularly liked and which, even when acquiring a with-
ered look, still had something fascinating for me) and
finally the ivory-colored wood of the stick itself (which
had a happy smell that made me want to lick it; but
soon it withered, which from the very start spoiled my
pleasure in this white).
It seems to me that shortly before my parents went to
Italy (where I, as a three-year-old, and my nurse were
taken along), my grandparents moved into a new
apartment, I have the impression that this apartment
was still completely empty, that is neither furniture nor
people were in it. In a room that was not large, there
was only a clock on the wall. I stood in front of it, all
alone, and enjoyed the white of the dial and the
crimson red of the rose painted on it.
My nurse, who hailed from Moscow, was very much
surprised that my parents were making such a long
trip, just to admire "broken down buildings and old
stones": "We have enough of these in Moscow." Of
all these "stones" in Rome I only remember an unsur-
mountable forest of thick pillars, this terrible forest of
the St. Peter's Cathedral from which, it appears to me,
my nurse and I could find no way out for a long time.
And then Italy is colored into two black impressions. I
drive with my mother in a black coach over a bridge
(water below — I believe dirty yellow): I was brought
into a kindergarten in Florence. And another black —
steps into black water, on it a terrible, black, long boat
with a black box in the center: we go on a gondola at
night. Here too I develop a gift which makes me
famous "all over Italy," as I cry from the bottom of
It was a piebald horse (yellow ochre body and light
yellow mane) in a game of horse race, which I and my
cunt* liked particularly. Here a strict routine was ob-
served: once I was allowed to have this horse under
my jockeys, and once my aunt. My love for such horses
has not left me to this day. It is a pleasure to me to see
such a horse in the streets of Munich; it appears every
summer when the streets are sprinkled. It arouses the
sun living within me. It is immortal because it has not
become older in the fifteen years I have known it. It
was one of my first impressions when I moved to Munich
before this time — and the strongest. I stopped and
followed it with my eyes for a long time. And a half
unconscious, but happy promise, touched my heart. It
aroused the little lead horse that was living within me
and connected Munich with the years of my childhood.
This piebald horse, suddenly made me feel at home in
Munich. As a child I talked much German (my grand-
mother, from my mother's side, came from the Baltic).
The German fairy tales which I had so often heard as
a child, began to take life. The high, narrow roofs of the
Promenaden Platz and the Maximilian Platz, which have
disappeared in the meantime, the old Schwabing, and
particularly the meadow which I once discovered by
chance, transformed these fairy tales into reality. The
blue tramway passed through the streets, like the air
in a fairy tale, taking on life, making breathing light
and happy. The yellow letter boxes at the corners
sang their songs like canary birds. I welcomed the in-
scription " K u n s t - muehle" and felt that I was in a
city of arts, which to me was the same as fairytown.
These impressions were the basis of the mediaeval
paintings which I made later. Following good advice, I
visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber. I will never forget
the constant changing from the express to the local
and from the local to the trolley with the grass covered
rails, the thin whistle of the long-necked locomotive,
the clatter and whining of the tired rails, and with the
old peasant, with large silver buttons, who insisted on
talking to me about Paris, and whom I could hardly
understand myself. It was an unreal trip. I felt as though,
counteracting all laws of nature, a magic power was
drawing me into the past, frbm one country to the other.
I leave the small (unreal) station and passing over a
meadow, I enter the gate. Gates, ditches, narrow houses
which hold their heads together down the entire lane,
and look each other deep into the eye, the giant door
of the inn, leading direct into the dark, mighty dining
room, from the center of which heavy, wide dark,
oak stairs lead to the rooms, and the sea of bright
red roofs which I see through the narrow window.
It was rainy all the time. High, round rain drops sat on
my palette, teasingly reached out their hands to each
* Elisabeth Tichejeff, who had a great, unforgettable influence on my life and my entire development. She was my mother's eldest sister
and played a great part in my education. However, also many other people, with whom she came in contact do not forget her
enlightened spiritual being.
other from afar, shivered and shook, suddenly and un-
expectedly they united, forming thin, clever cords, run-
ning quickly and gaily among the colors, slipping into
my sleeves here and there. I do not know where these
studies have gone. They have disappeared. Just one
picture remained of this trip. That is "the old village"
which, however, I only painted after my return to
Munich from memory. It is sunny and I made the roofs
as bright a red as I could at the time.
In this painting too I really was chasing after a certain
hour which always remained and will remain the nicest
hour of the Moscow days. The sun is already low and
has reached its greatest power, for which it was search-
ing all day long, to which it aspired the entire day.
This picture does not last long: but a few more minutes
and the light of the sun becomes reddish from effort,
redder and redder, first cold and then warmer and
warmer. The sun melts all of Moscow into one spot
which, like a mad tuba vibrates the spirit — the entire
soul. No, this red unity is not the nicest hour! That is
only the last note of the symphony which brings every
color to highest life, which lets all of Moscow ring like
the fff of a giant orchestra and forces it to join in.
Pink, lavender, yellow, white, blue, pistachio green, crim-
son red houses, churches — each a separate song —
the raving green grass, the deeper murmuring trees,
or the snow, singing with a thousand voices, or the
allegretto of the branches, stripped of their leaves,
the red, stiff, silent ring of the Kremlin wall and above
that, towering, everything like a note of triumph, like
an all-forgetting Hallelujah the white long, delicately
earnest line of the Ivan Weliky Bell Tower. And on its
high, stretched neck, striving upwards in constant search
of the heavens, is the golden head of the cupola, shin-
ing between the golden and colored stars of the other
To paint this hour, I thought, would be the most impossi-
ble and highest joy of an artist.
These Impressions repeated themselves every sunny
day. They were a pleasure which touched me to the
bottom of my soul, rising to ecstasy. And at the same
time, they were a torture, because I felt that art as a
whole, and particularly my powers as compared to
nature, were far too weak elements. Many years had
to pass before I came to the simple solution, through
feeling and thinking, that the aims (thus also the means)
of nature and art are essentially, organically, by the
laws of science, different from each other — and that
they are equally large and equally strong. This solu-
tion which today guides my work, which is so plain and
simply natural, destroys the unnecessary torture of the
unnecessary task which deep inside of me I had set for
myself, though it could not be fulfilled. It did away with
this torture, and the pleasure in nature and art thus
rose to untroubled heights. Since that time I have been
able to enjoy these two world elements to their full.
A joy, paired with the stirring feeling of thankfulness.
This solution released me and opened new worlds to me.
Everything "dead" vibrated. Not only the stars, moon,
woods and trees serenaded by the poets, but also a
stump lying in an ash tray, a patient white trouser but-
ton looking up from a puddle in the street, a willing
piece of bark trailed through the grass by an ant's
strong teeth to a certain place and for a certain pur-
pose, a calendar sheet, towards which the well-known
hand is extended, to forcefully tear it from the warm
companionship of the other sheets remaining on the
pad — everything shows me its face, its inner being,
the secret soul, which remains silent more often than it
speaks. Thus every quiet and every moving point
or line became just as alive and opened up its soul
to me. That was sufFicient for me to "grasp" with all
my being and all my senses the possibility and the ex-
istence of that art which today in contrast to "objec-
tivity" is called "non-objectivity."
But at the time when I was attending college and could
use only my free time for painting, I searched, in spite
of an apparent impossibility, for a "color chorus" (as
I called it) which I could retain on canvas and which
had come to me directly from nature, stirringly forcing
itself onto my very soul. I made desperate efforts to
express the full power of this resounding — and in vain.
At the same time my soul was constantly kept vibrating
by other, purely human emotions, so that I knew no
quiet hour. It was the time of the creation of an all
student organization which was to embrace the stu-
dents not only of one university, but of all Russian
universities, and in the end also the Western European
universities. The struggle of the students against the sly
and unveiled University Law of 1885 continued con-
stantly. "Unrests," violations of the old liberal Moscow
traditions, the destruction by the ofFicials of organiza-
tions already in existence, our new organizations, the
subterranean thunder of the political movements, the
development of the initiative* of the students, created
constant new occurrences and thus made the soul sensi-
tive, receptive and particularly susceptive to vibrations.
*This own initiative is one of the happy, though much too little cultivated sides of a life pressed into rigid form. Every individual
(cooperative or personal) step brings results, because it shakes the rigidness of the state of life — irrespective of whether it shows
"practical" results or not. It forms the atmosphere of criticism of common occurrences which, through dull habit continue to harden the
soul and make it immovable. This is the reason for the dullness of the masses, about which freer spirits, always have reason to complain
bitterly. It was the intention to create the cooperative organizations in such a way, that their statutes were as loose as possible, so that
they would be more inclined to adjust themselves to anything new and not keep to precedence as much as was formerly the case.
Every organization is to be considered merely as a stepping stone to freedom, as a band which is still needed, but which is to be
as loose as possible and does not hinder the great strides to further development.
Luckily, politics did not completely embrace me. The
necessary power of absorption into the fine material,
called the "abstract," was practiced by me through
various forms of study. Besides the special field chosen
by me (economics which I studied under the guidance of
Prof. A. J. Tschuproff, the greatly gifted scientist, and
one of the most singular people that I met in my life)
other sciences powerfully attracted me, partly simulta-
neously, partly individually; Roman law (which en-
chanted me through its fine, conscious, highly refined
"construction," but which finally could not satisfy me,
the Slav, due to its cold, much too reasonable, unbend-
ing logic), criminal law (which particularly interested
me, and perhaps too much so, due to the then new
theory of Lombroso), the history of Russian law and the
law of the peasant (which in contrast to Roman law
won my great admiration and love as a release and
happy solution of the fundamental law*), the know-
ledge of ethnology, touching upon this study (which in
the beginning I thought would bring me to the soul
of the people). All these helped me to think in an
All these sciences I loved, and to this day thankfully
remember the hours of enthusiasm, and perhaps inspi-
ration, which they gave me. However, these hours
faded upon my first contact with art, which alone had
the power of relieving me of the feeling of time and
space. The scientific work had never given me such
experiences, inner tension, creative moments.
Although, I found my powers too weak to feel justified
to dispense with my other duties and, as it appeared
to me at the time, to lead the unlimitedly happy life
of an artist. Besides, at that time, Russian life was par-
ticularly morose, my scientific works were appreciated,
and I decided to become a scientist. In economics, (the
subject chosen by me) I liked, besides the returns, only
the pure abstract form of thinking. Banking, the practi-
cal side of money matters were to me utterly repulsive.
However, there was nothing left to me but to also take
this part into the bargain.
At the same time I experienced two things which placed
a stamp on my entire life and which at that time stirred
me to the bottom of my soul. They were the French
Impressionistic exhibition in Moscow — particularly the
"hay stack" by Claude Monet — and a Wagner pres-
entation at the Hof Theater — Lohengrin.
Before that I knew realistic art only, really exclusively
Russian, often stood for a long time in front of Franz
Liszt's hand on his portrait by Repin, and the like. And
suddenly, for the first time, I saw a painting. The
catalogue explained to me that it was a hay stack. 1
could not recognize it. I felt embarrassed at this lack
of recognition. I also felt that the painter had no right
to paint so indistinctly. I had a dull feeling that the
object was missing in this painting. And I noticed with
surprise and consternation that the picture does not
only draw you, but indelibly impresses itself upon your
brain and unexpectedly, to its minutest detail, con-
stantly floats before your mind's eye. All this was un-
clear to me, and I could not draw the simple conse-
quences of this experience. The thing, however, that
was completely clear — was the unexpected power of
the palette, until now unknown to me, which surpassed
all my dreams. Painting acquired a fairytale-like power
and beauty. Unconsciously, however, the object as the
unavoidable element of a painting, was discredited.
All in all I had the impression that a small part of my
fairy-tale Moscow already existed on canvas.**
Lohengrin, however, appeared to me a full realization
of this Moscow. The violins, the deep notes of the con-
trabass, and particularly the wind instruments, to me
embodied the full power of the hour of dusk. In spirit
I saw all my colors — they stood in front of my mind's
eye. Wild, almost mad lines, appeared before me. I
did not dare use the expression that Wagner had
musically drawn "my hour." It became quite clear to
me, however, that art in general is much more powerful
than appeared to me and that on the other hand,
painting could develop the same powers that music
possessed. And the impossibility of myself discovering
these powers or at least finding them, embittered my
renunciation even more.
However, I was never, never strong enough to carry out
my duties in the face of everything, and I succumb to
the temptation that was only too great for me.
A scientific event, cleared one of the most important
impediments on this road. That was the further division
of the atom. The destruction of the atom to my soul was
equal to the destruction of the world. Suddenly the
heaviest walls broke down. Everything became uncer-
tain, tottering and soft. I would not have been surprised,
if a stone had dissolved in the air in front of me and
* After the "emancipation" of the peasants in Russia, the government gave them an economic self-administration which, unexpected to
most, awal<ened the political instinct of the peasant and made him politically mature; also their own court where, up to certain limits,
judges chosen by the peasants settled disputes and were allowed to punish criminal acts. And here the people found the human
principle, to punish small offenses severely, and severe ofFenses lightly, or not at all. The peasant's expression for this is: "According
to the man." That is there was no rigid law made (for example, as in the Roman law — particularly jus strictum I) but a very flexible and
liberal form, which was not decided by appearance but solely by the spirit.
** The "Light and Air Problem" of the impressionists interested me very little. I always found that Intellectual conversations over this
problem, have very little to do with painting. The theory of the Neo Impressionist, which in the end talked about the effect of color and
left air alone, appeared much more important to me. In spite of that I first felt dully, and later consciously, that every theory which is
based on exterior means, represents only an individual case, at the side of which many other cases can exist by the same right; still
later I realized that the exterior grows from the inside, or is born dead.
became invisible. Science seemed to me to have been
destroyed; its most important basis was but an illusion,
on error of the scientists, who did not build their celes-
tial structures in enlightened light, with a steady hand,
stone by stone, but were rather feeling for truth, un-
guided in the dark, and blindly misinterpreted one
item as another.
As a child already I knew the tormenting, happy hours
of inner tension, promising to take on an incarnate form.
These hours of inner trembling, unclear longing, calling
for something we cannot understand, exercising pres-
sure on the heart during the day, filling the soul with
unrest, and during the night causing us to live through
fantastic dreams, full of horrors and joys. Like many
children and adolescents, I tried to write poems, which
I tore up sooner or later. I can remember that drawing
killed this condition, that is, it allowed me to live outside
of time and space, so that also I did not feel myself
anymore. My father* at an early age discovered my
love for drawing and allowed me to take drawing
lessons, when I was still in high school.
I remember, how I loved the material itself, how the
colors and crayons were particularly attractive, beau-
tiful and alive to me. I derived lessons from the mistakes
I made, almost all of which still affect me with their
original power. As a very small child I used water color
for a piebald horse; everything was finished, except
the hoofs. My cunt, who helped me paint had to leave,
and suggested, that I wait with the hoofs until she re-
turned. I remained alone in front of the unfinished pic-
ture and tormented myself with the impossibility of
putting the last bits of color on the paper. This last
piece of work seemed so simple to me. I thought, that
if 1 would make the hoofs real black, they would surely
be absolutely true to nature. I put as much black on the
brush as I could. One moment — and I saw four black,
disgusting, ugly spots, utterly foreign to the paper, on
the horse's feet. I felt desperate and horribly punished !
Later I well understood the Impressionists' fear of black
and still later it cost me actual spiritual fear to put pure
black on a canvas. Such a child's misfortune casts a
long, long shadow on many years of its later life.
Further great impressions which I gathered during my
years at college and which again affected me for many
years, were the Rembrandts in St. Petersburg's Hermitage
and the trip to the Government District of Wologda,
where I was sent as ethnologist and jurist by the Im-
perial Institute for natural history, anthropology and
ethnography. I had a double duty: To study the peas-
ants' criminal law among the Russian people (to find
out the principles of primitive law) and to collect from
the fisher and hunter tribes of the gradually disappear-
ing Syrians, the remnants of their heathen religion.
Rembrandt deeply moved me. The great division of
Light and Dark, the blending of the secondary tones
into the larger parts, the amalgamation and consolida-
tion of these tones into these parts, which give a great
double effect at any distance, immediately remind-
ed me of Wagner's trumpets, opening to me en-
tirely new possibilities, super-human effect of the color
itself and particularly the intensifying of the power by
means of constellation, that is contrasts. I saw that every
large space in itself contained nothing mystic, that each
of these surfaces immediately betrayed its derivation
from the palette, but that this space actually achieved
a mystic power through the other space opposing it, so
that at first impression its derivation from the palette
appeared doubtful. However, it was not within my na-
ture to immediately apply a means observed. Uncon-
sciously I approached the strange pictures as I now
approach "nature"; I greeted them with respect and
deep joy, but felt that this was a power still strange
to me. However, on the other hand I felt rather uncon-
sciously that this great division of Rembrandt's gave
his pictures a quality which to that date I had never
seen. I felt that his pidures "lasted long" and explained
this to myself as being due to the fact that first I had
to constantly explore one part, and then the other.
Later I understood that this pariition or division magic-
ally produces an element which originally appeared
strange and inaccessible to painting — time**.
The paintings which I painted in Munich ten to twelve
years ago, were to receive this quality. I only made
three or four such paintings, during the course of which
I wanted to put an "endless" number of at first hidden
color tones into every part. They first had to appear
completely hidden***, particularly in the dark, and only
as time went on, show themselves to the carefully watch-
* With unusual patience my father, during my entire life, allowed me to follow my dreams and whims. When I was ten years old he tried
to have me assist him in making a choice of schools for me, between Real Gymnasium and the Latin Gymnasium; by describing the
differences between the two schools, he helped me to make my choice as Independently as possible. For many years he liberally
assisted me financially. When my life changed, he spoke to me as an older friend and never exercised the least bit of force upon me
in important matters. His principles of education were full confidence and friendly relations with me. He knows how thankful I am to him.
These lines should be a guide to parents who often try to forcefully push their children (particularly those gifted artistically) from their
proper walk of life and thereby make them unhappy.
**A simple case of the application of time.
*** During this time I acquired the habit of noting down individual thoughts. Thus was born "On the Spiritual in Art, "unconscious to me.
The notes piled up during a period of ten years at least. One of my first notes on the beauty of color in a painting, is the following:
"The splendor of color in a painting must strongly draw the observer towards it, and at the same time it must hide the deep rooted
essence." I meant the essence of painting, but not as yet in pure form (as I see it now), but the feeling, or the feelings of the artist,
which he expresses in painting. At that time I still labored under the delusion that the observer faces the painting with an open soul and
tries to hear a language known to him. There are such observers (that is no delusion), only they are just as rare as gold dust in the
sand. There are even some observers who, although they have no personal relation to the language of the painting, will face it and allow
it to take ahold of them. I have met such people during my life.
ing observer, first unclear and testingly, growing more
and more, with increasing "unearthly" power.
To my great surprise 1 found that I was working along
Rembrandt's principle. That was an hour of bitter dis-
appointment and gnawing doubt as to my own powers,
the doubt of a possibility of finding my own means of
expression. Soon it also appeared "too cheap" to me
to incarnate the element I loved most at that time, in
such a manner — the hiding, the time and the weird
At that time I worked particularly hard, often until late
at night, when I was interrupted in my work by complete
exhaustion and had to go to bed quickly. Days during
which I had not worked (seldom as they were !), I con-
sidered lost and tormented myself because of them.
When the weather was even fairly good, I painted one
or two hours every day, particularly in the old Schwab-
ing which at that time gradually developed into a part
of Munich. During the time of my disappointment in the
studio work and when I was painting from memory, I
particularly painted a lot of landscapes which, how-
ever, did not give me much satisfaction, so that later on
I only made paintings of a very few of them. I did not
consider the feeling of travelling with a paint box, with
the sensation of a hunter in my heart, as responsible,
as the painting of pictures in which at that time I already
semi-consciously, semi-unconsciously searched for the
composition. The word composition moved me
spiritually, and 1 made it my later aim in life to paint
a "composition". The word itself affected me
like a prayer. It filled me with awe. When painting
sketches, I let myself go. I thought little of houses and
trees, with my spatula I cut colored stripes and spots
on the canvas and let them sing as loud as I could. In
me the hour before dusk in Moscow resounded, in my
eyes was the strong, colorful scale of the Munich light
atmosphere, thundering in its shadows. Later, parti-
cularly at home, always deep disappointment. My
colors appeared too weak to me, too flat; the entire
study — a resultless effort to catch the power of nature.
How queer it was for me to hear that I was exaggerat-
ing the colors of nature, that this exaggeration makes
my paintings incomprehensible and that my only sal-
vation would be to learn to "break colors." The Munich
critics (who partly, particularly at first, were very
favorable towards me*), tried to explain the "splendor
of my colors" as due to Byzantic influence.
The Russian critics (who almost without exception at-
tacked me with unparliamentary expressions) found that
I was deteriorating under the influence of Munich Art.
At that time I saw for the first time how wrong, unin-
formed and unrestrained most critics go to work. That
explains the cold-bloodedness with which intelligent
artists accept the worst articles about themselves.
The inclination to "hide," to be hidden, saved me from
the detrimental side of folk art which I saw for the first
time in my travels in the Government District of Wologda,
on its true soil and in its original form. First I took the
train with a feeling that I was travelling to another
planet, then I travelled by boat for a few days along
the quiet and self-absorbed River Suchona;then in a
primitive coach through endless forests, between col-
ored hills, via swamps and sand deserts. I travelled
all alone, which was favorable to absorbing myself in
the surroundings and myself. During the day there was
often a scorching heat, and during the night a freezing
cold. I often think with thankfulness of my drivers
who constantly wrapped me warmer into my travelling
rug, which slid down repeatedly, due to the shaking
and jumping of the coach, which had no springs. I came
to villages where the entire population was suddenly
clad in grey, from top to bottom, and who had yel-
lowish-greenish hair and faces, or whose costumes
showed a multiple of colors, making them appear like
colored, living pictures running around on two legs.
I shall never forget the large houses, covered with
wood cuts. In these wonder houses I experienced some-
thing that has not repeated itself since. It taught me to
move into the picture, to live in the picture. I still
remember how I stepped into the room the first time
and instantly stopped, overcome by the unexpected
picture. The table, the benches, the large oven, so im-
portant in a Russian peasant house, the closets and
every article were painted with colored, large orna-
ments. Folk art on all the walls; a hero, representing a
symbol, a battle, a painted folk song. The "red" corner
("red" is ancient Russian and means the same as "beau-
tiful") completely and closely covered with painted and
printed pictures of saints; in front of this, a small red
hanging lamp, which burned and flourished like a
knowing, discreetly low talking, modest, for and in itself
living proud star. When flnally I entered the room, I felt
myself surrounded on all sides by the painting, into
which I had thus penetrated. The same feeling was
dormant in me up to that time, unconsciously, when I
was in the churches in Moscow, and particularly in the
main dome of the Kreml. During my next visit to these
churches, after my return from this trip, the same feeling
within me became fully clear and alive. Later I often
had the same experience in the Bavarian and Tyrolean
Chapels. Of course, every time the impression was
colored entirely different, because completely differ-
ent parts formed this impression: Church ! Russian
Church! Chapel! Catholic Chapel!
* Even today my critics can see talent in my older paintings, which is a proof of their weakness. In later ones, and the latest, they find
confusion, a dead end road, a decline and often deceit which is a good proof of the constantly increasing power of these paintings. Of
course, here I do not speak of the Munich critics alone: for them — with few exceptions — my books are malicious bungling. It would
be too bad, if this judgment were different.
1 did much sketching of these tables and various orna-
ments. They were never paltry and were painted so
strongly that the object dissolved within them. This
impression, too, became clear to me only much later.
Probably for no other reason than through these im-
pressions, my further wishes took shape within me,
objectives of my own power. I have for many years
looked for the means of letting the observer "walk"
into the painting, to force him to the self-erasing dis-
solution with and within the picture.
Sometimes I even succeeded: I saw it in the observer.
From the unconsciously intended effect of painting on
the painted object, which can dissolve itself through
such painting, I further developed my ability of
overlooking the object also within the painting.
Much later, when I was already in Munich, I was en-
chanted by an unexpected view in my studio.
It was the hour of approaching dusk. I returned home
with my paint box after making a study, still dreaming
and wrapped into the work completed, when suddenly
I saw an indescribably beautiful picture, imbibed by an
inner glow. First I hesitated, then I quickly approached
this mysterious picture, on which I saw nothing but
shapes and colors, and the contents of which I could
not understand. I immediately found the key to the
puzzle: it was a picture painted by me, leaning against
the wall, standing on its side. The next day, when there
was daylight, i tried to get yesterday's impression of
the painting. However, I only succeeded half-ways: on
its side too, I constantly recognized the objects and
the fine finish of dusk was lacking. I now knew fully
well, that the object harms my paintings.
A frightening abyss, a responsible load of all kinds of
questions confronted me. And the most important: what
should replace the missing object? The danger of orna-
mentation stood clearly before me, the dead make-
believe existence of schematical forms could only
Only after many years of patient working, strenuous
thinking, numerous careful attempts, constantly devel-
oping ability to purely and non-objectively feel artistic
forms, to concentrate deeper and deeper into this end-
less depth, I arrived at the artistic forms, with which
I am now working, at which I am now working and
which, I hope, will develop much further.
It took very long before the question "What should
replace the object?" received a proper reply from
within me. Often I look back into my past and am
desolate to think how much time I have lost in answering
this question. I have only one consolation: I could never
get myself to use a form which was created within me
through the application of logic — not purely feeling.
I could not think up forms and I am repulsed when I see
such forms. All forms that I ever used came "of their
own accord," they appeared in finished form before
my eyes, and it was only up to me to copy them, or
they already shaped themselves, while I was working,
often surprising me. As the years went by, I have
learned to somewhat control this ability of shaping.
I have trained myself not to just let myself go, but to
check and guide the force workinig within me. As the
years went by I learned to understand that working
with a quickly beating heart, with pressure on the chest
(and thus later aching ribs) and tension of the entire
body, cannot suffice. It can, however, only exhaust the
artist, not his task. The horse carries the rider with
strength and speed. But the rider leads the horse.
Talent brings the artist to great heights with power
The artist, however, guides his talent. That is the ele-
ment of the "conscious," the "calculating" in his work,
or what else you wish to call it. The artist must know
his talent through and through and, like a smart busi-
nessman, not let the smallest part rest unused and
forgotten. He must rather utilize, develop every single
piece up to the maximum possibility existing for him.
This training, development of talent, requires great
ability to concentrate, which on the other hand tends
to diminish other abilities. I observed this clearly on
myself. I never had a so-called good memory: I was
particularly always unable to memorize numbers, names
and even poems. The tables of multiplication always
offered me unsurmountable difficulties, which I have not
overcome to this date and which got my teachers des-
perate. From the very start I had to utilize the optical
memory. Then it went better. In the state examination
in statistics I quoted an entire page of figures only be-
cause in the excitement I saw this page in front of me.
Thus, already as a boy, I was able to, at home, paint
by heart paintings, which had particularly fascinated
me in exhibits, as far as my technical abilities per-
mitted. Later I often painted a landscape better "by
heart" than from nature. Thus I painted "The Old
Village" and later made many colored Dutch and
Arabian drawings. Thus, in a long street I could name
all stores, without making a mistake, because I saw
them in front of me. Fully unconsciously I constantly
saturated myself with impressions and at times so in-
tensively and so incessantly, that I felt how my chest
was cramped and breathing became heavy. I became
so overtired, overstuffed, that I often thought with envy
of clerks, who could rest completely after their work.
I longed for dull quiet, for eyes, which Boecklin called
"porter's eyes." However, I had to see constantly.
A few years ago I suddenly noticed that this ability
had decreased. First I was very much frightened, but
later I understood that the powers which enabled con-
stant observation had been guided along other roads,
due to my improved ability to concentrate, and that
they fulfilled other purposes, much more important to
me now. My ability to absorb myself with the inner life
of art (and thus also my soul) increased so intently, that
I often passed outside objects without noticing them,
something that could not have happened before.
As far as I understand, I did not mechanically force
myself to this ability — it always lived organically
within me, but in embryonic form.
As a thirteen or fourteen year old boy I bought a paint
box with oil colors with money I had slowly saved up.
The feeling I had at that time — or better: the ex-
perience of the color coming out of the tube, is with
me to this day. One pressure of the fingers and cheer-
ing, solemn, meditating, dreaming, wrapped up in
themselves, with deep seriousness, with bubbling roguish-
ness, with a sigh of relief, with the deep sound of sor-
row, with obstinate — power and resistance, with re-
silient softness and devotion, with tenacious self-control,
with pathetic unstabieness of balance, one after the
other of these unique beings that we call colors, ap-
peared — each alive within itself, independent, equipped
with all kinds of qualities for further independent life.
And willing at any moment, to submit to new combina-
tions, to mix among themselves and create endless rows
of new worlds. Some lied there as already exhausted,
weakened, hardened, dead forces, living reminders of
past possibilities, not decreed by fate. As in strife, as
in battle fresh forces appear from the tube, replacing
the old ones. In the center of the palette there is a
unique world of remnants of colors already used, wan-
dering far from this source to build the necessary
creations on canvas. Here is a world which arose from
the will, to create the pictures already painted and by
coincidence, the obscure game with forces unknown to
the artist. And I owe much to these coincidences: they
have taught me more than any teacher or master. I
studied them often with love and admiration. The
palette, (consisting of the elements mentioned and which
in itself is a "creation," often more beautiful than any
masterpiece), be praised for the pleasures which it
grants. Often it appeared to me that the brush which
with unbending will power tore pieces from this living
color creation, brought forth musical notes as it tore
away the pieces. Sometimes I heard a hissing of the
mixing colors. It was like an adventure that you could
hear, in the secret kitchen of the mysterious alchemist.
Later I heard that a very famous artist had said (I do
not remember who it was) "In painting one look at the
canvas, half a look at the palette and ten at the
model." It sounded very nice, but I soon found that in
my case it would have to be the other way around:
Ten looks at the canvas, one at the palette, half a look
at nature. Thus I learned to fight with the canvas, to
learn to know it as a creature resisting my wish (dream)
and to forcefully submit it to my wish. First it stands
there like a pure, chaste virgin with clear eye and with
heavenly joy — this pure canvas which itself is as beau-
tiful as a painting. And then comes the wishful brush
conquering it here and there and finally with all its
energy, like a European colonist penetrating the wild
virgin nature which no one to date has touched, using
the axe spade, hammer and saw to shape her accord-
ing to his wishes. I gradually learned not to see the
I obstinate, white tone of the canvas, to notice it only as
a matter of seconds (to check myself), instead of see-
ing in it the tones that are to replace it — thus one
thing slowly followed another.
Painting is a thundering collision of different worlds in-
tended to create the new world v/ithin and out of their
strifes. This new world is the painting. Technically every
masterpiece is created as the cosmos was — through
catastrophies which in the end create a symphony, a
symphony of spheres from the chaotic noise of the
instruments. The creation of masterpieces is the cre-
ation of worlds.
Thus these feelings of colors on the palette (and also
inside the tubes, which resemble humans rich in soul but
modest looking, who suddenly in case of need uncover
and utilize their powers so far hidden) became spiritual
experiences. These experiences became the bases of
the ideas which already began to consciously collect
themselves within the past ten to twelve years and
which lead to the book "On the Spiritual in Art." This
book wrote itself more than I wrote it. I wrote down
certain experiences which, as I found later, had a cer-
tain organic connection. I felt increasingly and con-
stantly clearer that it is not the "formal" that is important
to art, but the inner desire (content) which imperatively
decides the formal. A step in this direction — which,
however, took a disgracefully long time, was the prob-
lem of solving the question of art on the basis of inner
necessity, which was capable of overthrowing all known
rules and barriers at any time.
Thus to me the realm of art constantly departed more
and more from the realm of nature, until I could handle
both, as two completely difFerent realms. This I accom-
plished fully only this year.
Here I might touch on a recollection which at the time
of its occurrence was a source of pain to me. When I
came to Munich from Moscow, with the feeling of a
resurrection, the forced labor behind me, the enjoyable
labor before me, I soon encountered a limitation to my
freedom which, at least for a time, though in a new
form, made me a slave — working from a model.
I saw the then very famous school of Anton Azbe*
closely crowded. Two or three models "sat for heads"
or "stood as nudes." Pupils of both sexes and various
nationalities, crowded around these ill smelling, indif-
* Anton Azbe was a gifted artist and a rare and kind person. Many of his numerous students studied with him free of charge. His
constant reply to the excuse that someone could not pay, was "Just work dilligently !" He apparently had a very unhappy life. You
could hear him laugh, but never see it; the corners of his mouth were hardly raised, his eyes always remained sad. I do not know
whether anyone knew the secret of his solitary life. And his death was just as solitary as his life; he died all alone in his studio.
In spite of his very great income he left only a few thousand Marks. Only after his death it became known ,how liberal he had been.
ferent, expressionless, generally unprincipled, beings,
malting 50 to 70 pfennigs per hour; carefully, with a
quiet, hissing noise, they covered the paper or canvas
and tried to anatomically, constructively and characteris-
tically copy these beings, that did not concern them in
the least. By cutting over the lines, they tried to bring
out the connection of muscles, by utilization of special
technique of space and line, they tried to model the
nostril, the lips, to build the entire head along the
"principle of the ball" and, as appeared to me, they
did not think of art for a moment. The principle of lines
in a nude sometimes interested me very much. Some-
times, hov/ever, it was repulsive to me. In some positions
of certain bodies I felt a repulsive effect of lines and
energetically had to force myself to reproduce them.
I was almost always fighting myself. Only outside, on
the street, I could breathe freely again. Often I suc-
cumbed to the temptation, of staying away from school
and with my paint box catch the Schwabing, the English
Garden or the Isar parks, according to my own con-
ception. Or I stayed at home and tried to paint a pic-
ture by heart, from studies or imagination. These paint-
ings did not have too much to do with the laws of
nature. Colleagues therefore often thought me lazy or
not too gifted, something that sometimes hurt me deeply
because I clearly felt within me the love for my work,
the diligence and the gift. Finally I isolated myself in
these surroundings, felt like a stranger and with all the
more intensity absorbed myself in my wishes.
However, I considered it my duty to attend the course
in anatomy, something that I did conscientiously — even
twice. The second time I heard the temperamental and
vivacious course by Prof. Dr. Moillet. I drew the prepa-
rations, wrote down the lectures, smelled the air of the
corpses. However, I unconsciously felt annoyed when I
heard of the direct connection between anatomy and
art. It even insulted me — just as I once felt insulted at
a correction, that the trunk of a tree "must always be
shown as connected to the ground." There was no one
there who might have helped me over this feeling, the
entanglement in this darkness. It is true, that I never
approached anyone with my doubts. I find to this day
that such doubts must be solved alone within the soul;
otherwise one would desecrate one's own strong solution.
However, I soon found, that every head, even though
it may appear very "ugly" at the start, is a complete
beauty. The natural law of construction, which is mani-
fested so completely and indisputably in every head,
gave the head this sign of beauty. I often stood in front
of an "ugly" model and said to myself: "How smart."
And it is endless wisdom that is portrayed in every
detail; every nostril, for example, arouses in me the
same feeling of admiration as the flight of a wild duck,
the connection of the leaf and the tree, the swimming
of the frog — the beak of the pelican, etc., etc. This
feeling of admiration for beauty, for wisdom I also
received immediately in Prof. Moillet's lectures.
I had a dull feeling that I was sensing secrets of a realm
of its own. However, I could not connect this realm with
the realm of art. I visited the old Pinakothek and no-
ticed that not a single one of the great masters had
achieved the exhaustive beauty and wisdom of the
natural model: nature itself remained untouched. It
appeared to me at times that it was laughing at these
efforts. Much more often, however, it appeared "divine"
to me in an abstract sense: it wrought its creation, it
went /7s way to its aims which disappear in the mist, it
lived within its realm, and I was strangely outside of it.
What is its relation to art?
When some of my colleagues saw the work I had done
at home, they termed me a "colorist." Some maliciously
called me the "landscape painter." Both hurt me, al-
though I realized the justification of these terms. All the
more so! I actually sensed that I felt much more at
home in the realm of colors than in that of drawing.
I did not know how to help myself in the face of this
At that time Franz Stuck was "the foremost painter in
Germany" and I went to him — unfortunately only
taking my school work. He found everything pretty
badly distorted and suggested that I work for a year
in the drawing class at the academy. I failed in the
examination, something that only made me angry, but
did not discourage me. In this examination drawings
were passed which I rightfully considered stupid, un-
talented and void of any knowledge. After working at
home for a year I went to Franz Stuck for the second
time — this time only taking along drafts of drawings
and paintings which I had not as yet been able to
complete; I also took a few studies of landscapes. He
accepted me for his painting class and when I asked
him about my drawing, I was told that it was expres-
sive. Already when I did my first work at the Academy,
Stuck energetically opposed my "extravagance" of
colors and suggested that I first draw in black and
white, so that I might only study the form. He spoke
surprisingly lovingly of art, the play of forms, the blend-
ing of forms and gained my full sympathy.
I only wanted to learn drawing from him, because I im-
mediately noticed that he was little receptive to color,
and I fully submitted to his advices. In the final analysis
I remember this year of working with him, although I
sometimes became very angry, with great thankfulness.
Stuck always spoke very little and sometimes not very
clearly. After the corrections I sometimes had to think
a long time over his remarks — but later I almost always
found them good. With one single remark he did away
with my serious handicap of being unable to finish a
painting. He told me that I worked too nervously, that
I consume all the interest at the start and spoil the in-
terest by the dry part which comes too late. He said:
"I wake up with the idea: today I have a right to do
this or that." This "I have a right to do" uncovered be-
fore me Stuck's deep love for art and his high respect
for it as well as the secret of serious work. And at home
I finished my first painting.
For many more years, however, I was like a monkey in
a net: the organic laws of construction wrapped them-
selves around me in my desires and it was only through
great pain, effort and attempts that I was able to
overthrow this "wall around art." Thus I finally entered
the realm of art, which is a realm of its own, the same
as that of nature, science, political life, etc., guided by
and through its own laws and which, with the other
realms together, in the end form that great realm which
we can only dully divine.
Today is the great day of one of the manifestations of
this realm. The associations and connections of these
individual realms were illumined as by a stroke of
lightning: they come forth from the darkness unexpect-
edly, frightening but as a blessing. Never were they
so strongly connected, never so strongly divided. This
lightning is the child of the darkening of the spiritual
heavens which hung over us black, suffocating and
dead. Here the great epoch of the spiritual begins,
the manifestations of the soul. Father — Son — and
As time went on and only gradually I realized that
"truth" in general, and particularly in art is not an X,
not an always incompletely recognized but immovable
eminence, but that this eminence is movable and is con-
stantly in slow motion. Suddenly it looked to me like a
slowly moving snail, that hardly appears to leave its
place and leaves a sticky trail behind it, to which
near-sighted souls are glued. Here too, I first noticed
this important factor in art, and later I also saw in this
instance that the same law governs the other realms of
life as well. This motion in truth is very complicated:
The untrue becomes true, the true becomes untrue, some
parts fall off like the shell from a nut; for this reason
some mistake the shell for the nut, and bestow on this
shell the life of the nut, many fight over the shell and
the nut/olls on. A new truth falls as if from the heavens
and looks so precise, so stiff and hard, appears so
endlessly high that some climb on it, as though they
were climbing a long wooden pole, and they are sure
that this time they have reached the heavens . . . until
it breaks and the climbers fall, like frogs into a swamp,
into the dark unknown. Man is often like a beetle, held
by the back; in silent longing he moves his little arms,
reaches out for every blade that is reached out to him
and constantly believes that this blade is his salvation.
During the times of my "unbelief" I asked myself, who
is holding me by the back? Whose hand is holding the
blade in front of me, and drawing it back again? Or
am I lying on my back on the dusty, unconcerned earth
and am reaching for the blades that are growing
around me of their own accord? How often, however.
did I feel this hand on my back, and then another that
pressed itself on my eyes, so that I was in the deep of
night while the sun was shining.
Art in many ways resembles religion. This development
does not consist of new discoveries which do away with
the old truths and call them aberrations (as appears to
be the case in science). Its development consists of cer-
tain illuminations, resembling lightning, of explosions
bursting like fire crackers in the sky and strewing a
"bouquet" of numerous luminous stars around them.
This illumination shows new perspectives in a bright
light, new truths which basically are nothing but the
organic development, the organic growing of old wis-
dom which is not overruled by the new, but continues
to live and produce as wisdom and truth. The new
branch does not make the trunk of the tree superfluous:
it makes the growing of the branch possible. Would
the New Testament be possible without the Old?
Would our period of the threshold to the "third" mani-
festation be possible without the second? It is the
branching out of the original trunk, in which "every-
thing commences." And the branching out, the further
growth and the further complication which often ap-
pears confusing and despairing, are the necessary
steps to the mighty crown; the steps, which in the final
analysis make the tree.
According to his own words, Christ did not come to
overthrow the old law. When He spoke: "It was said
unto you . . . and I say unto you . . ." he brought the old
material law as that which had become his spiritual
law. In contrast to man at the time of Moses, man had
become capable at that time to understand and feel
the laws "do not kill," "do not commit adultery," not
only in the direct material form, but also the abstract
form of the sin of thought, the spiritual sin.
The plain, precise and hard idea, therefore, is not
overthrown, but is used as a step to further awakening
ideas. And these further, softer and less precise, and
less material thoughts, are like further, softer, new
branches, which pierce new holes into the air.
On Christ's scale the truth is not placed as an exteriorly
rigid fact, but as an inner, flexible one. Here lies the
root of the further re-evaluation of values, which unin-
terruptedly, that is also today, slowly continues to
create and at the same time is the root of spirituality
which we also gradually achieve in the realm of art.
During our time in a strongly revolutionary form. In this
way I finally came to the conclusion that I did not con-
sider non-objective painting a cancellation of all former
art, but only a vitally important elementary division of
the one old trunk into two main branches* from which
other branches grow, and which are essential for the
formation of the green crown.
* By these two main branches I mean two different ways of handling art. The virtuoso manner (which music has known as a special
approach for a long time and which in literature is equal to the art of acting) rests on the more or less personal conception and on
the artistic, creative interpretation of "nature."
From the very beginning I felt this fact more or less
clearly and was always annoyed by claims that I was
trying to overthrow the old form of painting. In my
works I never felt this desire to overthrow: in them I
only felt the innerly logical, exteriorly organical, un-
avoidable continued growth of art. Gradually I realized
the former feeling of freedom and thus the unessential
demands I made of art, gradually disappeared. They
disappeared in favor of only one demand: the demand
of i n n e r life in a painting. Here 1 noticed to my sur-
prise that this demand grew on the basis which Christ
set up as a moral qualification basis. I found that this
conception of art is Christian and that at the same time
it embodies the necessary elements for the receptive-
ness of the "third" manifestation, the manifestation of
However, I consider it just as logical, that the coloring
of the object in painting makes great demands on the
inner spiritual life of the purely artistic forms, that is
that a development on the part of the observer is abso-
lutely essential, and can under no circumstances be done
without. Thus the conditions are created which bring
forth a new atmosphere. In this atmosphere, much, much
later, pure art will develop which draws us with irre-
sistible attraction in the dreams which today evade us.
As time went on I realized that my slowly further de-
veloped (partly conquered) tolerance of other works,
did not harm me in any way, that on the contrary it is
very favorable to the one-sidedness of my efPorts. For
this reason 1 would like to partly limit, partly enlarge
on the statement "The artist should be one-sided" and
say: "The artist should be one-sided in his work." The
ability to experience the works of others (which, of
course, happens and must happen in an individual way).
makes the soul more sensitive, more capable of vibra-
tion, enriching, widening and refining it and making it
more capable of doing its own work. Experiencing and
feeling the work of others, in a broad sense is the same
as experiencing nature. May and can an artist be deaf
and blind? I would say that one approaches his work
with even happier spirit and even more quiet glow
when one sees that other possibilities (which are in-
numerable) in art are properly (more or less) utilized. As
regards me personally, I love every form which ori-
ginated from the soul's necessity, was created by the
soul. Just as I hate every form that was not born that way.
I believe that philosophy in the future besides studying
the nature of things, will also study its spirit with great
care. Then that atmosphere will be created which will
in general give man the ability to feel the spirit of
things, to, even though unconsciously, experience this
spirit just as today most men unconsciously experience
the exterior of things, which explains the public's en-
joyment of representational art. This, however, enables
men in general to experience the spiritual in the ma-
terial things and later experience the spiritual in ab-
solute things. And through this new ability, which will
be in the sign of the "spirit," the enjoyment of absolute
art is developed.
My book "On the Spiritual in Art" and also "The Blue
Rider" had for its main objective the awakening of this
ability of experiencing the spiritual in the material and
in absolute things, an ability which will be absolutely
necessary in the future and will make possible endless
observations. The desire of arousing this blessed ex-
perience in those who were not already enjoying it,
was the main object of the two publications.**
(An important example — the portrait.) Nature is here also intended to mean an already existing work, created by someone else: the
virtuose masterpiece which grows out of this, belongs to the same class as a picture painted "from nature." As a rule, artists up to now,
suppressed the desire of painting such virtuose paintings, something that should be regretted. The so-called copy also belongs in this
class: the copyist tries to come as close to the foreign piece of work, as a very careful conductor treats a foreign composition.
The other category is the composition, where the work for the greater part, or exclusively, comes "from within the artist," as has
,for hundreds of years been the case with music. In this direction, painting has caught up with music, and both have a growing tendency
of creating "absolute" masterpieces, that is fully "objective wopks," which resemble the works of nature and as separate, individual
beings, grow "by themselves." These works are closer to that art which lives in the absolute and maybe they alone are designed to
represent this absolute art.
*ln this sense the Russian peasant law, previously mentioned, is also Christian and opposed to the heathen, Roman right. With daring
logic the inner qualification can be explained thus: this act is not a crime when committed by this man, while in general and in the
case of other people, it would be considered a crime. That is: In this case a crime is not a crime. And further: There is no absolute
crime. (What a contrast to nulla poena sine lege!) Still further: Not the deed (the actual), but the root (the abstract) creates the bad
(and good). And finally: Every deed is irrelevant. It stands on the border. The will gives it the push — it falls to the right, or to the left. The
exterior flexibility and the inner precision is greatly developed in this case among the Russian people and I do not believe that I
exaggerate, when I recognize a great ability in this direction among the Russians.
It is therefore not surprising, that nations, who have developed along the lines of the often valuable principles of the formal, outwardly
very precise Roman law and spirit, (remember the jus strictum of former periods) shake their heads at Russian life or strongly criticize it.
In superficial observation, this life which appears extraordinary to the strange eye, merely manifests the outer flexibility, which is
considered unruliness, because the inner precision lies at a depth. That is the reason why the free thinking Russians show much more
understanding of other nations than is shown to them. In many cases this understanding turns to enthusiasm.
**My "Spiritual on Art" was written and had been ready in my desk drawer for several years. The possibilities of putting the "Blue
Rider" in practice, did not work out. Franc Marc opened the practical way for the first book. He also supported the second through
his fine, understanding and talented spiritual cooperation and help.
The two books were and are often misunderstood. They
are taken as "programs" and their authors are de-
scribed as theorists, artists who have become entangled
and perished in brain work.
Nothing, however, was further from me, than to appeal
to the intellect, to the brain. This task would have been
premature at this time and will confront the artists as
the next, most important and unavoidable aim (step)
in the further development of art. Nothing can and will
be dangerous anymore to the established spirit which
has taken strong roots;therefore the much feared mental
work in art will also not be able to harm it.
After our before-mentioned trip to Italy and after a
short return to Moscow, when I was barely five years
old, my parents and my aunt, Elisabeth Tichejeff,to whom
I owe as much as to my parents, had to move to Southern
Russia (Odessa) for reasons of my father's health. Here
I later attended the Gymnasium but always felt a tem-
porary guest in this city, which was strange to my en-
tire family. We never lost the wish" of being able to
return to Moscow and this city developed a longing in
my heart similar to that described in Tschechoff's "Three
Sisters." From my thirteenth year on, my father took
me with him to Moscow every year; and when I was
eighteen years old, I finally moved there with the feel-
ing that I had at last returned to my home. My father
hails from Eastern Siberia where his forefathers were
banished from Western Siberia for political reasons.
He was educated Jn Moscow and learned to love this
city no less than his home. His deeply human and loving
soul understood the "soul of Moscow" as well as the
Moscow exterior. It is always a pleasure to me to hear
when, for example, with solemn voice, he enumerates
the numerous old churches, calling them by their won-
derful old names. Doubtlessly, an artistic soul speaks
here. My mother was born in Moscow and embodied
in her the qualities which to me meant Moscow: ex-
terior striking, through and through earnest and strict
beauty, noble simplicity, endless energy, a combination
of great nervousness and striking majestic quiet and
heroic self-control, combining tradition with true liberal-
ism. Briefly — inhuman form the "white-stoned," "golden-
haired" "Mother Moscow." Moscow: the duplicity, the
complicacy, the greatest flexibility, the collision and
confusion in its outer appearance which in the end forms
an own, uniform portrait, the same qualities in inner
life, something that the strange eye cannot understand
(that is the reason of the many, many contradicting
opinions of foreigners regarding Moscow), which is so
extraordinary and in the end so simple — this entire
interior and exterior Moscow I consider the root of my
artistic ambitions. It is my artistic tuning fork. I have the
feeling that it was always thus and that as time went
on and due to the exterior formal advances I con-
stantly painted this "model" only with constantly stronger
expression, in fully new form and am painting it today.
The excursions which I have made here and there, off
this road, on the whole did not harm me, a few dead
signs, where I was exhausted and which I sometimes
felt represented the end of my work, on the whole were
starts and pauses, which enabled the next step.
In many things I must condemn myself, but to one I
always remained true — the inner voice, which de-
cided on my aim in art and as a result of which I hope
up to the last hour.
Munich, June 1913. KANDINSKY
Published 1913 in the Sturm edition: Kandinsky by
POINTED AND ROUND
It is no exaggeration to affirm, that Kandinsky remained
most rigorously logical to himself of those painters
whose watchword at the start of the 20th Century pro-
claimed a renewal in the Art of painting. He achieved,
to an absolute degree, the pictorial revolution about
which there were so many discussions at the end of
the 19th Century.
Nevertheless, one is forced to realize that this profound
prophet and most thorough of theorists of the move-
ment of post-impressionistic revolt, remained less known,
and even today not yet listened to, than a number of
painters, who vulgarized his theories. While with the
help of commerce (so much avoided by Kandinsky)
they let their superficial mass production easily become
accessible to visitors through exhibitions in museums.
This very vulgarization was accompanied by an in-
credible concert of imprecations, insults, jeers, cries of
indignation, and even threats, of which one hears today
only belated echoes, diminished and without importance.
In the end, this renewal was only a regeneration of
form, a new organization of matter, a simple autopsy
of the third dimension; where form-problems were con-
sidered unconventionally and the surfaces were granted
a new value. No need to underestimate the consider-
able share of aesthetics which these artists contributed
to the patrimony of painting, it must be admitted that
their efforts toward an absolute art, favored a priori
the validity of the invisible reality as soucre of rhythmic
inspiration and as the subject of creation. If we should
recall that the word "Abstraction" indicates an opera-
tion of the mind by which we consider a particular
element of the so-called reality, we could even say,
that these painters were realists in the measure in
which they visionarily were inspired by such a reality,
in the degree of their personalities.
It is the domain of "pure effusion" which Kandinsky
chooses for his field of operation. For him, art "belongs
to the spiritual life." The problem of the painter is not
to reflect nature through the prism of his personality,
but to exteriorize intuitively the prism itself, where the
feelings are born, the evolutions of the artist, those
"vibrations of the human soul," in which Kandinsky sees
the most important source of aesthetic creation. The
story element, the charm of style in a painting are
non-pictorial accidents, the consideration of which be-
longs to an entirely different domain. Creative paint-
ings touch the spectators' heart, otherwise than by what
ordinarily is experienced, with objective paintings. It
is by its "inherent ordered" Rhythm that a Non-objective
canvas ought to move the one who looks at it, so as to
rouse the emergence of spiritual affinities between his
soul and that of the painter. What painting has to say
cannot be expressed in words, nor ranked in a material
category. A sort of osmosis on the mental plane ought
to take place, through which the spectator identifies
himself spiritually with the creator of such paintings.
Kandinsky cannot help scoffing at those who are in-
capable of this attitude. In his book, "On the Spiritual
in Art" (complete text in the works of the All Russian
Art Conference, St. Petersburg 1913) he writes: "Our
materialistic age has produced a type of spectator or
'connoisseur,' who is not content to put himself opposite
a picture and let it say its own message. Instead of
allowing the inner value of the picture to work on him, he
worries himself by looking for 'closeness to nature,' or
a 'meaning' or 'temperament,' or 'handling,' or 'Tonality,'
or 'perspective,' or what-not. His eye does not probe the
outer expression to arrive at the inner meaning." In
short, each picture is a challenge to the sensibility of
the spectator, daring him to join the painter on the
immaterial plane, which is his, and to taste the same
spiritual joys. In a letter, Kandinsky specifies the attitude
he asks of the public, explaining that the spectator must
learn to look at a picture as the graphic expression of
a spiritual force, and not as a representation of objects.
(A. J. Eddy, "Cubists and Post-Impressionism".)
Thus painting is the direct expression of a state of
mind, that is to say, a complexity of intuitive creative
feelings, varied and sometimes even contradictory;
conditioned by the formation of the artists' intelligence.
While certain progressive elements induce his life's
evolutionary advancement, through tragic or happy
influences, which reacting in profound intensity evolve
into strength the outline of his growing personality, this
entirety of spiritual conditions could not find its formal
equivalent in the earthly realm. To exteriorize it, by
applying it to natural forms, would be to corrupt it,
deprive it of innermost qualities and reduce it to such
small proportions as could be momentarily a surprising
and, at best, a news item.
The real problem of a painter is not that of the photo-
grapher, who strives to reproduce something he finds
worth to hold down, merely stamping it with^his trade-
mark of a personal choice in his pictorial selection. The
creative painter is somewhat similar to the musician,
who feels no task reproducing the sounds he hears
around him, but who, on the contrary, exteriorizes only
the creative rhythm while making audible such har-
monies, the painter makes such rhythm visible. A hearer
"will like" or "will not like" a piece of music, according
to whether or not it will find sympathetic echoes in his
soul. In any event, primarily the musician realizes his
expression of emotions in their pure state. He^finds the
means to communicate his intimate experiences to others
without having recourse to any static pretense of reality,
so as to sublime his intensities. While the painter was
forced to this by public need — before, at last, pho-
tography gave him the spiritual freedom enjoyed by
the musicians. In the case of the painter, this freedom
is expressed with the means of the elements of his art.
The composing of forms, tone values, colors, space
dimensions, which are combined according to their
pictorial counterpoint, relative only to the spiritual
sensibilities of the artists' creative receivership.
The creative painter of today cannot be satisfied by
representation, however artistic, in his desire to express
his inner life. He does not envy any more the ease of
freedom in music's incorporeal art. As so evidently the
painting's superior expression of inventive imagination
is more profound, more visionary and consequently of
far stronger, more lasting and ordering influence. With
rhythmic law of constructive counterpoint, he sets in
motion harmonies of color and form, in the given space.
In order to clarify the existing correlations of such in-
tense concentration of feeling and its pictorial creation,
Kandinsky tried in his treatise and culture programs to
undertake a profound study of the theoretic and tech-
nical elements of his art, to which he was almost too
close to see its importance. He was interested in the
fact that a classical French landscape painter of the
XIX Century, Henri Rovel, had declared "the laws of
harmony of painting and of music to be the same."
("Tendances Nouvelies," No. 35, quoted in "On the
Spiritual in Art.") Kandinsky was led to discover and
formulate the ideal, which constitutes the essential
of his art and renders the value to his theories on
painting. The revelation and use of the pictorial
counterpoint induces progress and opens the gate to
the contact with the infinite.
In music as in painting exists the rule of counterpoint
with which to create the lawful form element. Perfection
of such counterpoint in a Non-objective painting, rich of
thematical variety, provides it with the true mark of
genius. Without it, such a canvas presents just a collec-
tion of patterns or accidental sketches which are of
as much significance to art, as some accidental sounds
produced on a piano could be to a symphony. Also
into this category belong symmetrical decorations which
are as far from a creative invention as scales are able
to produce a sonata. It is by organization of the
subtle interaction, thc^t harmonious aesthetic coherence
gives evidence and power to any essential, spirited
message. It allows a painter to give the true measure
of his innermost evolution. In objective painting, this
integration, an aesthetic pleasure in itself, is not sought
for. Its results of research amplify the banality of
eternally boring repetition, and repetition of objects
depicted endlessly. The correlation which is estab-
lished in the mind of the spectator between the subject
of the picture and his own experience or memory of
that subject is not of any lasting interest. Therefore,
the representational painting over and over again tells
the same old story of landscapes, portraits, endlessly
banal still-lifes, which even could there be a change,
cannot but for a short moment hold our attention to
prevent the usual yawning, with which our reaction,
to pictorially so over-crowded existence has now-
adays become identified. The divine result of our
escape into the loftier realms of imagination, to eternal
relief, releases us to a spiritual freedom of endless
interest; here the varieties of frequencies are con-
stantly new, effective on those not blinded by earthly
boredom, of curiosity without surprises left. The non-
objective painting's unending possibilities of basic form
problems are beyond the static still-life of portraits.
Artistic forms have done away with the untruth of
pretense in perspective, deceit so easily taught, so
contrary to pictorial elements.
The spiritual element of counterpoint in creative paint-
ing constitutes the acme of aesthetic value. Kandinsky
defines thus its divers components: "The concord or
discord in various elements of a picture, the handling
of groups, the combination of veiled or openly ex-
pressed appeals, the use of rhythmical and unrhyth-
mical, of geometrical or non-geometrical forms, of con-
tinuity or separation — all these things constitute ma-
terial for counterpoint in painting." ("The Art of
In Kandinsky's work this counterpoint is undeniably the
dominant quality which gives to his pictures their force
of cohesion. It allows forms, extremely rich in their
almost unending variety, colors of strikingly daring or
dull tonality, to coexist in the space encompassed by a
frame. According to an inner rhythm, in which each of
these elements finds its relation to its neighbors, so as
a creation it is as unique as every human being. It is
the spiritual presence of such counterpoint, which gives
to Kandinsky's canvases this spiritual quality of validity,
whether past, present or future as this eternal value,
based on the immortality of all true aesthetic manifes-
tations of the soul.
Non-objective painting possesses the peculiarity of
evading the rules of past epochs. It obeys to the
superior law of the universe, the existence of which for
the artist has the power of sensorial postulate. Through
the omniscience of the artists' intuition and the subtlety
of his sensibility, he directs his faculties of exterioriza-
tion towards the spiritual domain which in reality is
theirs, of the degree in which they have assimilated the
ineffable mechanism, and which Kandinsky expressed,
by saying: "That which has no material existence can-
not be subjected to a material existence nor can it be
subjected to any material classification." Therefore,
that which belongs to the part of its spiritual message
in the picture, can only be received and realized by
the onlooker's feeling in meeting the artist's message
half way — by the simple message "to be enjoyed."
To be liked by some or disliked by others does not
change the superiority of Bach's music. Nor does the
personal likes or dislikes of critics or the public af-
fects the value of any art.
It is interesting to recall the chance incident, which set
Kandinsky on the track of his theory of Non-objective
painting. That evening in 1905, as he was entering
his studio, his gaze drawn to a picture in a dark
corner of the room. It conveyed great beauty, an al-
most mystical harmony of colors and surface. Kandinsky,
coming close to it, discovered that the picture was
standing sideways, consequently, what appealed to
him so much was no result of subjective influence,
evidently the purely pictorial effect of elements, there-
fore, could result in such really magical enjoyment.
This episode had a decisive influence in the evolution
of Kandinsky's painting.
What he had visualized before hazily now suddenly
became clear to his mind. At last he knew and felt
how he must paint; free of objective hindrance, so
harmful to the pictorial element. He now understood
that the object had no place in his pictures.
To eliminate it entirely was the stepping stone, to what
was to become soon the theoretic and practical renewal
of his art, if not of art itself.
Kandinsky wrote in 1935 to Hilla Rebay "It has always
been my convinction that this kind of painting at least
has no less possibilities than the objective — rather
more! I think absolutely: more!
"The great differences of the pictures must appear
sufficient even to the most 'stubborn skeptic' to shake
the mental prejudice against absolute form. Of course,
if the skeptic wishes to see. One can, if one wishes, be
blind even with open eyes. There are no remedies
against this. That in the evil conditions of our days,
culture and art suffer most, is more than correct. Luckily
we are not the only ones who see this clearly. Here
and there one hears voices today who speak energet-
ically of the lost feeling of honor, the disappearance
of the thirst for spirit, the devastating lack of interest
in matters of culture. Yet, today such voices are "voices
in a desert." As an unconvertible optimist 1 feel and
believe, that in the end their hopes will win.
When? is another question. Yet we are branded as
whimsey individuals and impractical people. But with
time soft drops of water work holes into the hard stone.
If we bear in mind that the present crisis is not only a
bank, economic and business crisis, but mainly a psy-
chosis, the soft drop turns into a hard drop and the
hard stone into a soft stone. Even this crisis is only a
small part of the much deeper reaching spiritual crisis."
"The creative power of us artists, which seemingly
today 'passes by life itself,' already today, like the
drop of water, gradually rebuilds the spiritual world.
I am not ashamed to make such a statement. So, long
live the future, long live 1935."
Kandinsky's interest in art and the things of the mind
had been awakened early in him by his father, who
was gifted with a real talent for drawing, and by
Elizabeth Tichejeff, his mother's older sister, to whom
he owes so much for his interest in music, folklore, literature
and "the profound essence of the Russian people."
For this reason Rural law especially interested him: To
study it he made a trip to the Northeast, to inform him-
self on pagan religion of the Syrienes. His travel im-
pressions in this picturesque Russian countryside, his
visits to peasant houses, with their brilliantly colored
interiors as his reactions to the vivid colors of the
Kremlin fill his eyes with the play of variations in
luminous or mysterious colors, which still may be found
in his early canvases.
At the termination of his law studies, Kandinsky got
the title of Attache of Jurisprudence at the Court of
Justice in Moscow. The University of Dorpat (Tartu in
Esthonia) offered him a professorship. The year is
1896; Kandinsky was thirty years old; he was at the
turning point of his life. So he took an irrevocable de-
cision: He abandoned a safe career and left for Munich
to study painting, "putting a final period to long studies
of preceding years."
Already in those days, the atmosphere of Munich was
very troubled. The struggle against modernism in
artistic expression was in full swing. Kandinsky first
studied at the school of Anton Azbe, who "of Slav
origin, was a gifted painter and a man of rare qualities
of the soul." He remained there two years, then he
finally was admitted to the Royal Academy in Munich
to study under Franz V. Stuck, who had the reputation
of being "the first draftsman of Germany." But the
instruction he received did not satisfy him. In 1902, he
opened his own art school, which he closed soon to
undertake a series of travels. These brought him in
contact with the many sides of movements by modern
painters in European countries. He thus familiarized
himself with Seurat, van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse,
Delaunay, Gleizes, Picasso and other painters, between
1903 and 1908. In turn he visited Tunisia, Italy, Paris,
Berlin. His paintings did not show any marked influence
by the innovations of contemporary artists nor did they
reflect the atmosphere of countries through which he
passed. Kandinsky was so completely Russian that even
his later landscapes attested to the durable impression
caused by the variety of colors of his native land,
while other canvases showed by their almost primitive
style how close he was to the intensity of Russian folk's
So he returned to Munich, where soon after occurred
the magical incident of the picture at dusk and through
it the realization of the superfluousness of the object
in any painting. It took two years in getting fully
crystallized. The canvases of this period, although still
abstractions of objects, use these primarily as structural
elements, while form and color dominated their ob-
jective inspiration. In 1910, he finished "Ueber das
Geistige in der Kunst," translated into English "On the
Spiritual in Art," a theoretical treatise on art. In it he
establishes the philosophical basis of Non-objective
painting; and it was published in 1912 in Munich, only
two years later, and 1914 in London, though incomplete.
The period from 1910 to 1914 is the one of the "Der
Blaue Reiter," ("Blue Rider") the name of a group de-
voted to the renewal of painting, which was formed by
Kandinsky, and in the orbit of which gravitated painters
like Franz Marc, August Macke, Paul Kiee and Jawien-
sky. At that time, about 1911, he exhibited his first
entirely Non-objective canvas and wildest controversy,
lies, insults, were started. While his renown was begin-
ning to spread among those, who were interested in
creativeness or opposed to it, his canvases started
feverish comments everywhere at their exhibitions.
The Armory show of 1913, a nucleus from the famous
Sonderbund exhibition in Cologne of 1912, brought to
New York by Marie Sterner, showed for the first time
also Kandinsky 's paintings, for one of which Alfred
Stieglitz paid $800, a sacrifice to him at that time,
when he became the first in the U. S. A. to own one of
these great paintings. These created a sensation, also
afterwards in Chicago, as later in London's Albert Hall.
There two improvisations by Kandinsky and a landscape,
were described as the best paintings there; the critic
added "the landscape is easier to interpret, but that
is all, and more."
Subsequently Kandinsky's "Improvisations" became
more definite, more logically ordered and more closely
knit in feeling and structure, as well as more surprisingly
beautiful in their opposing colors, more precise in their
equilibrium. Yet to call them "pure visual music," was a
term which Kandinsky disliked.
Yet the intense spontaneity of organized force in such
vast contrast to the lyrical tenderness of these paintings,
creates a vivid interplay. An artistic expression which
in later years is prevented, due to his advance in the
science of counterpoint, yet his theoretical research de-
veloped other problems in the Realm of space precision
and the composition so essential to the infinite appeal
of the paintings' serene quietitude. The period from
1922-1928 people called his cold period and again
he was abused for it. Soon enough these paintings
were in possession of private collectors who began to
realize his unerring strife for pictorial perfection.
Between 1914 and 1921, Kandinsky had lived in Russia.
Circumstances prevented him from doing much work,
and it is only by their darker colors that we distinguish
his canvases of the period 1914 to 1919, while all
these paintings contain the same lyrical poetry. In 1919
he finds, simultaneously used in her paper paintings
from Alsace by Hilla Rebay, and what later Bauer used
in his white fugue, the intense precision of intricate space
dimension, induced by the use of a cruel white or (as
Kandinsky did) of very light backgrounds. Such cruel
white does not permit the ease of modulating tone
values between forms, which hide vague tonal indecisions
of the realistic era paintings.
In 1918, Kandinsky was named member of the Art
Section of the People's Commissariat of Public Educa-
tion and professor of Aesthetic Science at the Academy
of Fine Art in Moscow. In 1919, he became Director of
the Museum of Pictorial Culture and as such founded
the Institute of Artistic Culture for which he wrote the
culture plan. In 1920, he was named professor at the
University of Moscow. In 1921 he created the Academy
of Artistic Science, of which he became Vice-President.
Also at this time did he organize for the government a
group of 43 museums destined to diffuse popular
Late in 1921, Kandinsky returned to Berlin, where at
the Wallerstein Gallery he exhibited canvases with
these light backgrounds and delicate colors often
sharply contrasted by decided black, as a constructive
counterpoint. Since 1923, he taught at the well-known
Bauhaus, first established in Weimar, later in Dessau.
When the authorities ordered its closing in 1933,
Kandinsky left that city via Berlin to finally settle down
in Paris, where he remained up to his recent death,
December 13th, 1944.
The pictures of the 1922-1928 period show the variety
of Kandinsky's talent. His painting frees itself more
and more by seeking and finding his inspiration entirely
in the sensibilities of the balance of space and that
of the absolute vision, which he recently called a con-
crete one after having taken complete possession of
his medium to express the intricacies "of pictorial tech-
niques." More and more Kandinsky's paintings give
evidence of his technical mastership. His continual
research to increase the infinite possibilities of Non-
objective painting never failed to proclaim the rhythmic
form ideal, which replaced the static one of the past.
That profound spontaneity with which he had created
from 1910-1919 extraordinarily rare masterpieces; of
such lyrical magic, as the famous "White Edge," the
gorgeous "Black Lines," "Red Spot," "Light Picture,"
"White Center," as well as his compositions and
"Improvisations," with which his reputation attained
such immediate height. In his last years, height may
have easily returned to him when due to the sufiFerings
from the war turmoil, such deep emotions may have
been revived once his mastership of technique and
space-balance had freed him again, so as to enable
him to spontaneous intuitive reaction as a possibility.
Also as a possibility to overcome the deprivation and
terror of war, to which his very last years had been
exposed. His last paintings, from 1938-1944, unknown
to us here due to war-conditions, quite possibly
express again a great lyrical intensity. They were ex-
hibited in Paris in November and December, 1944,
during Kandinsky's last grave illness. This "enormously
successful" exhibition had to be extended after his
death, which occurred on December 13, 1944.
The profound truth of his theories impress to a grow-
ing degree, those, who are able to feel aesthetic
enjoyment through his paintings. The prophetic nature
of these paintings evokes and proclaims a spiritual
ideal which is to dominate a new era. When intuitive
evolution proclaims the right of mankind, it enters vision-
arily into the absolute domain of universal order,
directing culture to advance into the absolute, equalled
by civilization's increasing attainment to ease life on
the material side.
This constitutes the beginning of a new epoch of
Humanity, to which such a master as Kandinsky was
the unerring prophet. Aesthetic culture's practical
side is the one above all vicissitudes of social cross-
currents, which helps to break up materialistic urge,
until its enlightened spiritual reality is found to be the
unerringly safe and only protection of mankind.
Naturally, Kandinsky was profoundly conscious of the
revolutionary and messianic character of his art. To him,
the true artist is endowed with "a secret power of vision"
which makes him the standard bearer for all those, who
believe in the spiritual evolution of humanity. "Painting
is an art," he declares, "and is not a vague production,
transitory and isolated, but a power which must be
directed for the improvement and refinement of the
human soul." (On the Spiritual of Art.) He is violently
opposed to esoterism in art, which intends to monop-
olize the universal value of beauty, for the benefit of
a few intellectualists or a clique of false aesthetics. He
rebukes them for having lost sight of the educational
role of art and, having no message to impart, to extol
the importance of the exterior aspect of the work. "The
artist must have something to say, for mastery over
form is not his goal, but rather the adapting of form to
its inner meaning." (On the Spiritual of Art.) And to
those who try to divorce the artist from the time in
which he lives, Kandinsky says that their theory of "art
for art" is precisely, "this neglect of inner meaning" by
which "art becomes purposeless" because of "vain
squandering of artistic talent."
"Every work of art is the child of its age," is the affir-
mation by which Kandinsky starts one of his books. The
needs and aspirations of each epoch are reflected,
with diverse exact degrees, in contemporary aesthetic
manifestations. But these are not necessarily intelligible
to a great number of people, whose education, origin
or background have conditioned them to hang on to
an artistic conception out of date long ago and far
removed from present human evolution. The artist is
not really in advance of his age, as is currently said;
it is only the public who has not caught up with him.
For the creative artist, who by a super-normal percep-
tion is permitted to grasp and express clearly the yet
obscure, reacts particularly sensitive to his intuitive con-
tact with universal force which artistically expresses the
Creator of the All. To precisely diffuse the revelation
with which prophetically Kandinsky was favored, re-
sults in the realization that all that was the truth for
him, is bound to become the truth for All. As Kandinsky
said, "art which is capable of educating further, springs
equally from contemporary feeling. It is not only the
echo and mirror of it, but also has a deep and powerful
prophetic strength." (On the Spiritual of Art.) The
artistic appreciation of cosmic order beyond objective
representation gives to Non-objective painting the
capacity of extending such spiritual influence, which
increases with the passage of time — in sharp contrast
to any representation of everlastingly repetitious,
boring objective paintings which reached their last
limits; and are now being left behind.
Spiritual Resurrection through art responds in general
to the highest human ideals. Open to the influence of
harmony and balance it already opposes congealed
dead representation in their pretense of reality, hence-
forth without secrets. To give way to the dynamic
exteriorization of the absolute, in its fvital beautiful
essence. The so satisfied needs of empirical know-
ledge reveal the pure joys of intuitive perception.
For all that and for still more, future generations will
become more grateful than we can be to this great
master. We already feel indebted to him who was able
to rise above human nature, to probe with passion,
confidence and courage the mysterious waves of the
soul: Wassily Kandinsky.
TING AS A PURE ART
BY WASSILY KANDINSKY 1914
CONTENT AND FORM:
The work of art consists of two elements: the inner
and the outer. The inner element, taken individu-
ally, is the emotion of the artist's soul. The emotion has
the ability of creating a basically corresponding
emotion in the observer's soul.
As long as the soul is connected with the body, it can
as a rule receive vibrations only through the medium
of feeling. The feeling, therefore, is a bridge from the
non-material to the material (Artist) and from the ma-
terial to the non-material (Observer). Emotion —
Feeling — Work of Art — Feeling — Emotion.
The inner element of a work of
art is its content. Thus spiritual vibration
must exist. If this is not the case, a work of art cannot
be created. That is, only a pretense can be created.
The inner element, created by the vibration of the
soul, is the content of the work of art. Without an inner
content no work of art can exist.
So that the content which first lives in an "abstract"
form maylbe shaped into a work of art, the second
element — the exterior — must serve to make it con-
crete. For this reason the content looks for a means of
expression, a "material" form.
Thus the work of art is an inseparable amalgamation
of the inner and outer element, the content and form.
The decisive element is that of the content. The
form is the material expression
of the abstract content.
The choice of the form is therefore decided by the
inner spiritual necessity which is the
only real unchanging law of art.
A work of art, which has been created in the afore-
mentioned manner is "beautiful." Thus a beauti-
ful work of art is a legitimate
combination of the two elements
of the inner and the outer.
This combination makes the work of art homogenous.
The work of art becomes an object. As a painting it
is a spiritual organism which, like all material organ-
isms, consists of many individual parts. These individual
parts, taken separately, are lifeless, like a cut-off
finger. The life of the finger and its appropriate effect
is dependent on its lawful connection with the other
parts of the body. The legitimate com-
bination is the construction.
Like the work of art, the work of nature is subject to
the same law: the law of construction. The individual
parts only become alive through the whole.
The endless number of individual parts in painting are
divided into two groups:
The drawn form and
The painted form.
The systematic and proper com-
bination of the individual parts
of both groups results in the
When we apply these two definitions (component parts
of the work of art and particularly the painting) to
individual works, we encounter the apparently coin-
cidental existences of strange component parts in the
painting. That is so-called n a t u r e . In our two
definitions nature was not assigned a place. How did
it get into the painting?
The origin of painting is the same as that of any other
art or any human act. It was purely practical.
If a savage hunter follows the game for days, he is
prompted by hunger.
If a royal hunter today goes on a chase, he is prompted
by pleasure. While hunger is a material value, is the
pleasure here an aesthetic value?
If a savage makes artificial noises for a dance, he is
prompted by sexual instinct.
When modern man goes to a concert, he does not
look for a practical auxiliary means in music, but for
Here too, the original physico-practical instinct has
become aesthetic. That means, here the original physi-
cal need has become a spiritual need.
In this refinement (or spiritualization) of the
simplest practical (or physical) means two results can
be observed throughout: the segregation
of the spiritual element from the physical and its
further independent development, thus
creating various forms of art.
Here, very gradually and constantly more and more
precise, the above-mentioned laws (of content
and form) interpose and finally create a
pure art from any transitory art.
That is a quite logical, natural growth, like the growth
of a tree.
The same procedure is noticed in p a i n t i n g .
First period. Origin: practical desire to retain
the perishable physical.
Second period, Development: the gradual
segregation from this practical purpose and the
gradual predominance of the spir-
t u a I element.
Third period, Aim: The reaching to the higher step
of p u r e a r t ; in it the remnants of practical
desire are completely segregated. It speaks in an
artistic language from spirit to spirit and is a realm
of artistic spiritual beings (subjects).
In today's position of painting we can
notice all three indications in various constellations
and degrees. The indication of development (the
second period) is the decisive one, i.e.:
First period: Realistic Painting (Realism
is understood here as it traditionally developed up
into the nineteenth century): Predominance of the in-
dication of origin — the practical desire, the perish-
able physical to be retained (portraits, landscapes,
painting of history in a direct sense).
Second Period: Naturalist Painting (in
the form of Impressionism, Neo Impressionism and
Futurism), the segregation from the practical purpose
and the gradual predominance of the spiritual element
(from Impressionism through Neo Impressionism to
Futurism constantly greater segregation and constantly
In this period the inner desire to give the spiritual
exclusive importance is so intense, that the impressionist
"Credo" already says "The important thing in art is
not the 'what' (by which is not meant the artistic content
but nature) but the 'how'."
Apparently so little importance is attached to the last
remnants of the first period (Origin) that nature as
such is no longer fully considered. Apparently nature
was only considered the starting point, an excuse for
giving expression to the spiritual content. In any event,
these component parts of the "Credo" were already
recognized and proclaimed by the Impressionists.
In reality, however, this "Credo" is only a "pium
desiderium" of the painting of the second period.
If the choice of the object (nature) were immaterial
to this form of painting, it would not have to look for
any "motives". Here the object demands the treatment,
the choice of form does not remain free
but is dependent on the object.
If we exclude the objective (object) from a painting
of this period and thus leave only the purely artistic
in the painting, we immediately notice that this
objective (object) forms a kind of support without
which the purely artistic structure (construction) breaks
down due to lack of forms. Or it is found that after this
exclusion only completely indefinite, coincidental artistic
forms (in an embryo state), unable to exist by them-
selves, remain on the canvas. Thus in such painting
nature (the "what" in this sense of painting) is not
coincidental, but important.
This exclusion of the practical element, the objective
(nature) is only possible if this component part is sub-
stituted by another important component. And that is
the purely artistic form which can give the painting
the power of independent life and is capable of
lifting the painting to the height of a spiritual object.
It is evident that this important component part is the
above described and defined construction.
This substitute we find in the third period which is
beginning today: Compositional painting.
According to the beforementioned schedule of three
periods, we have therefore arrived at the third period,
which was designated as the aim.
In compositional painting which is
today developing in front of our eyes, we immediately
see: The distinguishing marks of the attainment of the
higher step in pure art, in which
the remnants of practical desire can be completely
segregated and speak a purely artistic language
from spirit to spirit, and which is a realm of graphical-
It will immediately be clear and unquestionable to
anyone, that a painting of this third period which has
no support in a practical purpose (of the first period)
or the spiritual content objectively supported (of the
second period), can only exist as a constructive being.
The today strong (and constantly stronger) appearing,
conscious or subconscious, effort of replacing the object
by construction, is the first step to the commencement
of pure art for the final attainment, for which the past
periods of art were unavoidable and legitimate.
Thus I have tried briefly to schematically discuss the
entire development and particularly the situation of
That is why so many gaps had to be left open. That
is why I have mentioned nothing of detours and devia-
tions which are unavoidable in any development, such
as the side branches on a tree, though it is lifted to
The further development which painting is facing, will
also suffer many contradictions, deviations — as was
experienced in music, which we today already know,
as pure art.
The past has taught us"^that the development of
humanity consists of the spiritualization of many values.
Among these values art occupies the first place and
painting is traveling the road which leads it from the
practical adequate to the spiritual adequate. From
the objective to the creative composition.
Analysis on his "Composition No. 4" by Wassily Kandinsky, written in March 1911. 8
Analysis on his "Composition No. 6" by Wassily Kandinsky, written in early May 1913. 10
Analysis on "The White Edge" by Wassily Kandinsky, written in late May 1913. 15
The Period of 1910-1920, and the importance of "On The White Edge." 16
On the difference of Abstract and Non-Objective Painting and on "Composition No. 8." 18
Notes on Kandinsky 20
Retrospects by Wassily Kandinsky, written in 1910,
published by Herwarth Walden in a Sturm Edition 1913, of a monograph called "Kandinsky." 23
Wassily Kandinsky, written Spring and Fall 1944, completed after Kandinsky's death December 13th, 1944. 36
Painting as a pure Art by Wassily Kandinsky from: Expressionisms 1918, Sturm Edition. 42
REPRODUCTIONS IN BLACK AND WHITE
COMPOSITION No. 4 (1911) oil on canvas 160cm x 250cm Location unknown 9
COMPOSITION No. 6 (1913) oil on canvas 195cm x 300cm Property of the Soviet Government 10
REPRODUCTIONS IN COLOR
Watercolor, 1911, sketch to the "Composition No. A,"
taken from the "Blue Rider," edited 1912 by Kandinsky. 8
The following paintings are owned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York,
and permanently on view at the Museum of Non-objective Paintings, New York.
THE WHITE EDGE (1913) oil on canvas 55 x 75 17
COMPOSITION No. 8 (1923) oil on canvas 54 x 78 19
EXTENDED (No. 533, 1926) oil on wood 37 x 17 Cover
POINTED AND ROUND (1935) oil on cardboard 27 x 19 34
"RIGID AND BENT (1936) oil and sand on canvas 45 x 64 ^ 41